Even though I had plenty to say when the Donald Sterling story broke this weekend, I wanted to wait. I wanted to take my time and get my thoughts together. I wanted to make sure I didn’t say something that was insensitive, unfounded, or just unintelligent. This is not a simple situation of a “hate crime” or a single instance of bigotry that can be reacted to in a purely emotional way. There are so many different parts to how all this fits together with the NBA, the fans, the African American and Hispanic communities, and just the American people in general. With this in mind, and my thoughts mostly gathered, I wanted to attack this issue point by point and try and briefly cover off all the topics I’ve heard discussed.
1. Donald Sterling’s Comments: They were abhorrent, disgusting, and so deeply routed in archaic and ignorant thinking that it literally made me nauseous. They wreaked of a man who doesn’t just “dislike” black people, but a man who believes they are inferior to him. It’s disgusting. When asked if he thought black Jews were less than white Jews (because Mr. Sterling is a jewish man, a minority group themselves), his response was, “One hundred percent!” His bigotry feels so deep-seeded that these can’t be new feelings. Oh wait, that’s because…
2. Donald Sterling’s Racist Beliefs Are Not New News!: Donald Sterling has been publicly outed as a racist and a bigot since AT LEAST 2006, by a US Department of Justice case levied against him because he didn’t want to rent properties to Black or Hispanic people. While he settled the case out of court for 2.7 million dollars, thereby avoiding officially admitting guilt, all of this information on his bigotted ideologies was made public. Ideologies that can be seen in this history of Donald Sterling quotes as run by Deadspin. Quotes that include, “that’s because all the blacks in this building, they smell. They’re not clean.”
3. A Lover’s Quarrel is No Excuse: I’ve heard at least a few people try to say that we’ve got to keep in mind that “we’ve all said things when privately fighting/arguing with a lover that we aren’t proud of.” That may definitely be true, but I’ve never, in my entire life, made a 10 minute argument for something I didn’t believe JUST because I was mad at my girlfriend. He doesn’t like Black or Hispanic people. Fact. The idea that his lover’s fight is an excuse is bullshit. But you know, maybe he was just afraid “once she went black, she’d never come back.”
4. V. Stiviano is No Freedom Fighter: Let’s just be clear here, in this case V. really is for Vendetta. Miss Stiviano illegally taped a conversation between her and Donald Sterling only as a way of getting back at him and his wife for a lawsuit about improper solicitation of funds totaling more than $2mm. She was not doing the African American community a public service by outing this bigot, she was trying to get back at him for cutting off her gravy train. I am by no means allowing this to excuse ANYTHING Donald Sterling said, but let’s just not in anyway put this chick on a pedestal. She clearly knew he was a racist for years (as evidence by her baiting him into this recorded conversation) but didn’t mind it as long as she was getting something out of it. Which brings me to…
5. We Are All Enablers of Donald Sterling: There are so many people guilty of turning a blind eye to Donald Sterling’s behavior that it’s almost embarrassing to see the new found rage being expressed all over the country. HE HAS A PUBLIC TRACK RECORD OF BEING A RACIST!!! All you had to do was read a newspaper or listen to former players, coaches, or read some of the sworn public testimony. However, we all accepted him for some reason. It’s almost as if we said, well he hasn’t yet crossed the line into an “unacceptable level of racism” yet OR we don’t care because his racism hasn’t been directly focused on “me”. Elgin Baylor is the perfect example. A man who worked for Donald Sterling for 22 years and then, only after being fired, stood up against his racist boss. Basically, as long as he was getting a paycheck he was willing to accept it. Conviction and Integrity means standing up for a belief even when it means sacrificing personal gain. Again, none of this excuses this asshole racist’s actions BUT it does explain why it’s been allowed to get to this point.
6. As Further Evidenced By Sterling’s NAACP Awards: Don’t think that people were turning a knowingly blind eye to Donald Sterling’s past behavior? Well how about the LA Chapter of the NAACP was about to award Sterling with his SECOND Lifetime Achievement Award. Let that sink in. Listen, I’m fine with the theoretical concept of Donald Sterling trying to make amends for his racist rental policies by donating to the NAACP. HOWEVER, there are far too many allegations against him of racism and bigotry to give him an award of any kind, let alone 2. I don’t care how much money he paid them. But, I guess the LA NAACP has lower standards or a lower price. It’s disgusting. The one group that absolutely should have been taking action against a man like Sterling, were too busy allowing themselves to be bought. A full scale investigation should be launched into this organization aimed at protecting and furthering the rights of the African American community.
7. The Players Aren’t The Only Victims: I’m sorry, but while I am outraged at the way Sterling views his players as his work horses that he lavishes with gifts for their hard day’s work, I feel equally if not worse for all the other minority individuals under his employ. The players, every single one of them, had at least some choice in coming to play for the Clippers and are rewarded handsomely for it. They are all millionaires. But, what about the concession workers and janitors and every other person that makes $8 an hour just trying to make ends meet? Sterling hates them equally, and maybe even more so because they can’t be exploited at nearly the profit margin. These are the same people he didn’t even want to let PAY him for the right to have a home. Why is no one talking about these people? The players, almost everyone of them, could retire tomorrow in protest and be completely financially secure. However, if they did that you know who wouldn’t be able to survive the implications? The people who work at the stadium. Those people can’t NOT show up to work in protest or even survive a work stoppage dictated by millionaires. They are regular hard working people that NEED every penny from that job, otherwise they wouldn’t be working there in the first place.
8. The Slavery Play Is Going a Bit Far: While I do not disagree that Sterling’s opinions REEK of southern plantation owner, let’s not confuse this for an actual case of slavery. It is unfair to and belittles those people from our past who actually did suffer through slavery. Slaves were held, without pay and against their free will, and forced to work or suffer beatings or execution. It was an inhumane practice that should make every single person a bit nauseous every time they hear the word. These players are paid millions of dollars, and while they do play under “contract”, to a certain extent, so do all employees of every single job. NBA athletes, and all pro-athletes for that matter, play their chosen sport out of their own free will and are financially rewarded for their time to a point that no one can argue gives them the opportunity to truly do almost whatever they please in life. If you want to tell me the concession stand employees and other minimum wage employees are a better representation of this master/slave relationship, I can at least see somewhat of a relationship. If you want to tell me that Donald Sterling clearly sees himself as a modern day “master” or “slave owner”, I can also accept that as well (because I think he does see himself that way). However, in my opinion, I don’t think we should allow anyone to relate the players to slaves and owners to masters.
If Donald Sterling is, by the default of owning a team, a slave master, then that means that every owner is part of that same analogy. Just because Donald Sterling is a racist and bigot, doesn’t make the entire institution of sports team ownership analogous to slavery. I think that’s a ridiculous assertion to make. People own businesses and thereby have employees who they pay. I completely understand why, because of the racial and demographic makeup of sports it could come off that way, but it’s not (currently) a fair analogy. I’ve never heard of a slave driving a Ferrari or even choosing to “retire”. Slavery was a disgusting institution that let me reiterate included the denying of freedom and persecution in the form of DEATH. People suffered absolutely horrible circumstances because of human cruelty, that I don’t feel is fair to try and relate to millionaires dealing with billionaires.
9. The Players As A League Can Boycott However They Wish: Let’s remember, that to a certain extent, these players have worked their entire lives for the chance at winning an NBA title. While I’m not saying that a title is more important than the beating down of racism – I don’t think it’s my place to make that decision for them. Donald Sterling, even though he is the owner, is still only 1 person in an organization of hundreds; and you could consider that organization thousands if you look at the Clippers as part of the entirety of the NBA. Why should the Clipper’s players, if they want to play, sacrifice all their hard work because of the heinous words of a single person? Sterling is already collecting all of his money for this year, and the sponsors are going to walk at this point because of his words or not because of his words. What about all the other teams and players? Do they keep playing, while the Clippers fold? Didn’t Donald Sterling’s comments technically apply to every minority in the NBA, and even every NBA Fan? Why should everything fall on the backs of 12 guys to make a decision that represents thousands or millions of players, but only actually impacts them? If the NBA and the Players want to truly take a stand for a larger issue, then ALL the teams should sit down for just one game. This way no one team has to stand alone. This way no one team has to forfeit a win, forfeit pay, or forfeit their dreams of winning a title. Just sit out a single game, every player, in the name of equal rights. Wouldn’t that REALLY do something much bigger? Wouldn’t it also show that Donald Sterling’s comments weren’t just directed at 12 players, they were directed at everyone who isn’t rich and white. I’ll support the players in whatever decision they make, but to me it shouldn’t fall on just the Clippers. The entire NBA should stand up against this racial bigotry and hate.
10. The Only Real Way Out: As Mark Cuban, and many others, eluded to, it’s a very difficult and slippery slope to force an owner to sell a team. Technically, Donald Sterling was illegally recorded making comments, albeit heinous ones, in private. Disgusting, immoral, and ignorant doesn’t always constitute illegal. Not to mention, being force to sell the team for roughly $1b is no real punishment and allowing him to continue owning the team in anyway is completely unacceptable. So what is the solution?
What if Donald Sterling did, possibly, break a law that could be used to incite an interesting internal mutiny? What if, now that all his racism and bigotry is public, all members of the Clippers’ organization filed harassment and unsafe workplace suits against sterling and requested being released from their contracts? For these purposes, it doesn’t matter how the tape became public, fact is the players may now feel harrassed and bullied by their owner; which is illegal. So what if all the players, in unison, actually won their release from their contracts? What if every player in the union agreed to not sign with the Clippers? What if the Clippers could now not field a team, hire employees to run the stadium, or front-office people to run the organization? TV Deals, Sponsorship Deals, and the overall health of the league would be jeopardized. Now this wouldn’t just give the league grounds to force him out (all types of breach of contract violations), but it would also drive down the value of the team – because it’d be like coming off the death penalty in college sports. It’s an interesting approach that I think has both legal and moral justifications – and the idea that this sick individual could be backed into a corner is something I have zero problem with. I want him out, and I think this is a feasible way to do so. At least it’s an option that no one is talking about.
In closing, I want to make it 100% clear my position is that this man, Donald Sterling, is a racist and a bigot of the worst kind. The type that doesn’t even have the conviction to say what/who he is. Under the cloak of wealth, he has kept himself free from real consequence for years. While many people played a small part in allowing him to behave this way, fact is you can’t take the onus off of him. He’s the racist but he’s also the billionaire. Not everyone is in the position to quit their jobs to stand up for their beliefs, and I get that. However, the time has come for him to face a reckoning of some sort for his actions. There is no place in the NBA, in sports, in this country, for that type of abhorent behavior. He should have faced stiffer penalties years ago for his treatment of his tenants, but instead we are dealing with him still to this day. However, we are in a position to stand up for change. We are in a position to say that from this point forward we won’t turn a blind eye to this type of discrimination. If you want to know how you can really play a part in change, it’s by simply not turning a blind eye to ignorance that exists around you. We need to do a better job of eradicating this type of thinking, not just when it’s convenient for us (like V.) or when it’s shoved into the public eye, but in those everyday situations in which they really occur. Donald Sterling didn’t become a racist last week, he’s been that way for years and he has a public track record to prove it. We need to prevent people like him from being allowed to behave that way. We need to cut off that type of thinking and behavior much earlier on.