If the television press has not mentioned it in its coverage approximately twelve hours after it broke, the internet and social media has exploded.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, (81 years-old, by the way) was caught on audiotape saying to his twenty-something year-old girlfriend that he didn’t want her bringing black people to his games—including Magic Johnson.
Listening to the tape in its entirety, Sterling apparently didn’t only have a problem with the woman bringing African Americans to the Staples Center, but particularly with the idea of her publicizing any of her interactions with people of color on Instagram.
Firstly: color me stunned that Sterling even knows what Instagram is. Secondly: A little bit of a louder tone from Sterling and we would have been hearing the second coming of Mel Gibson’s infamous diatribe at his girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.
This one is too ironic for words. Sterling is so tone deaf and ignorant that he has no idea that the person he is dating is of mixed race. The 20-something V. Stiviano is a model of African American and Mexican descent.
Even worse for Sterling is that he not only seems to be an ignorant, racist tool, but also a womanizer. Sterling’s wife, Rochelle Sterling recently filed court documents against Stiviano alleging that she and Sterling were indeed involved in a secret tryst. That suit, according to reports, is also alleging that Stiviano has at least three aliases as well.
Some have speculated that the release of the Sterling/Stiviano tape has everything to do with his wife’s case against the Clippers’ owner. Honestly—it is irrelevant.
Even if the context of Sterling’s comments can be interpreted as him not wanting Stiviano to bring black people to Clipper games in the context of Stiviano’s friendships with them, that does not make this any less of an important story.
First, let’s start with Sterling’s diss against Magic Johnson. He later responded saying that Sterling’s words were “Shameful”.
Given Sterling’s track record, which once included using a racial slur directed at his players to Rollie Massamino coaching his team, plus having to pay $17.3 million to actress Robyn Cohen for losing most of her possessions in a fire in a building owned by Sterling, he should be lucky he is even being written in the exact same sentence as Magic Johnson.
If any person should be a role model for young African American males, it is post-retirement Magic Johnson. Say what you want about his contraction of the HIV virus, but he has become a brand name in himself since retiring from the NBA.
Sterling should be kissing Magic’s feet that his team even gets to share the same arena in the LA Live district with the Lakers. The Lakers’ championship banners are covered up during Clipper Games at Staples, but Los Angeles is still (and possibly always will be) a Laker town.
Then, there’s the story of how Clippers players chipped in to cover the medical bills of former assistant coach Kim Hughes when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, and others had to pick up the tab when the Clippers refused to cover Hughes’ medical expenses.
Even with this story involving Stiviano out of the picture, an ESPN the Magazine story publicized on Deadspin told of Sterling purchasing the Ardmore Apartments in Beverly Hills. He complained that the building smelled “because of all the blacks”.
He had to pay $2.7 million in what was, at the time, the largest housing discrimination suit in history for his discrimination against not only blacks but Hispanics as well.
Going back to Gibson, he and Sterling also have another thing in common. As evidenced by their trysts with Grigorieva and Stiviano, they’re both old men who are into young women who ought to leave these old men ASAP.
Needless to say, Donald Sterling is not exactly citizen of the year.
Dr. Steve Perry and comedian Kevin Hart have already expressed that they will not be attending any future Clippers games. Alonzo Bodden has said that the audio has ruined his support of the Clippers. Jesse Jackson and Keith Olbermann are calling for PLAYERS to boycott until Sterling is punished by the NBA.
There’s a reason why this should not be out of the question.
Sterling is the owner of a team in a league that is 80% African-American. Three of the Clippers’ marquee players (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Jamal Crawford) are either African-American or mixed (Griffin). The head coach of the team is African-American—Doc Rivers.
There is no way these players and this coach can be happy about this news. After all, Chris Paul once explicitly said that he wanted a black coach to coach the Clippers after the team 86’d Vinny Del Negro. What Clippers players say and do in response to this potential bombshell news involving their owner will show if they are indeed speaking from their hearts, or if they have already been coached. Not by Rivers—but by Sterling’s PR folks.
DeAndre Jordan has already posted a picture on Instagram in response to the Sterling comments—a plain black picture. Other NBA players including the Pacers’ David West, and former NBA’er Baron Davis (who was once infamously heckled by Sterling on at least one occasion during his period of time with the Clippers) have also spoken out.
By the way, Sterling should be lucky that he even has Paul, Griffin, and Rivers on his team. Griffin was drafted, CP3 was acquired in a trade from New Orleans, and Rivers badly wanted out of Boston. In fact, CP3 is largely responsible for recruiting Rivers to be the Clippers’ head coach right now.
Reports even said that the loved ones of the Clippers’ players even encouraged them to not play the duration of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors. This supposedly will not happen, but why shouldn’t it?
I can understand from the standpoint of Jamal Crawford. He is 34 years old and at the tail end of his career. J-Crossover would love to win a championship before he eventually calls it quits in a few years.
But, Blake Griffin is relatively young. DeAndre Jordan is relatively young. Chris Paul is 28 years old—just entering the prime of his career. Griffin, Jordan, and CP3 will have plenty of years in the future to compete for championships. And, as evidenced by New Orleans post CP3, any team he goes to will be immediate contenders. In addition, he’s the new president of the NBA’s Players Association.
This is bigger than basketball. Its things like this that make us remember that, at its core, it’s only a game. This is about pride. Who wants to play or work for someone who openly harbors racially-based distaste for you?
The idea is that players will still want to play because they’re competing for something they’ve worked for their whole lives—an NBA championship. But, these players also have to realize that it is bigger than a Larry O’Brien trophy and that winning a title for themselves and their fans in Southern California is, in no uncertain terms, also a championship for Donald Sterling.
Donald Sterling living in Southern California. Not only is Sterling an owner of a team in a league that is 80% African American, but he owns a team in Los Angeles—possibly the most diverse city in the country. LA is 50%+ Hispanic. It is also at least 10% African American and LA County (the largest county in the country in terms of populace) has a population of over 400,000.
It even took a while for the media to finally start mentioning this. When the NBA announced that it was announcing an investigation into the supposed Sterling/Stiviano tape is when ESPN began interviewing its NBA scribes such as Chris Broussard and Stephen A. Smith to get their thoughts on the story.
Before this, it looked as if ESPN was sweeping this under the rug because of Sterling (and the other owners’) influence on ESPN’s NBA coverage was dictated by Bristol’s huge TV contract with them. This especially after ESPN dedicated basically the entire two weeks leading up to this year’s Super Bowl discussing whether or not the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman was a “thug” after he got emotional in his postgame interview with Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews.
Ultimately, the biggest question has to be the status of Donald Sterling as an NBA owner. MLB once infamously forced out Marge Schott as owner of the Cincinnati Reds because of her status as an unapologetic racist. MLB even stiff-armed former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt out of the league after it was proven that his bloody divorce from his wife, Jamie, was partly over control of the team and affecting the team’s finances.
Ironically, one of the Dodgers’ owners now is…Magic Johnson.
This is the first major issue that Adam Silver has had to deal with since taking over as commissioner back in February. It is somewhat telling that the NBA’s ownership structure includes shady characters such as Sterling, Jim Buss (who is now threatening to sell the Lakers if they are not contenders in a few years), James Dolan, Dan Gilbert, Clay Bennett, and others.
But, last year, when Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer (more deserving owners, by the way) dumped a bucketload of money into their planned purchase (and relocation) of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, David Stern moved mountains (and reportedly NBA owners who favored Seattle over Sacto) to get the league to keep the Kings in Sacramento.
If it turns out that the NBA will force a sale of the Clippers to new owners, those guys in Seattle (or Las Vegas who recently broke ground on an NBA-ready arena) have to be at the front of the line. Another likely option is for the NBA to force a sale where the Clippers would be owned by the league (ala MLB with the Montreal Expos and the NHL with the Phoenix Coyotes) until it finds new owners—like the prospective ones in Seattle and Vegas.
Mr. Silver, we’ll definitely be waiting. If this turns out to be true, the first line of offense should come from the players as well as head coach Doc Rivers for symbolically saying that they want nothing to do with playing for a racist owner. Chris Paul’s status as head of the NBPA may also influence what happens.
The next thing that has to happen is Adam Silver announcing that the owners will force Sterling out of the ownership ranks, the NBA warehousing the team for a period of time, and then ultimately selling to a new ownership group.
If Silver wants to flex his commissioner’s muscle early in his tenure, I can think of no better way to do it than by making a statement on this issue.
What ultimately needs to happen on a macro level is for the ownership structures of all major sports to be looked at. All four (five if counting the MLS which is expanding and continuously growing in popularity) major North American sports have huge non-Caucasian contingencies.
In the NBA and NFL, those contingencies are African-American. In Major League Baseball, those contingencies are Hispanic and Japanese. In the NHL, those contingencies include players from Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe.
The player structures of the leagues may be diverse, but the ownership (and even in many cases, the coaching) structures of the various leagues are still predominantly old and white. The leagues have to do a much better job with not only encouraging minorities to pick up a baseball glove or a hockey stick, but need to encourage more businessmen and businesswomen to be in a position where they can sign the checks and make important personnel decisions for their organizations.
If justice is to be served, then Sterling’s days in the NBA are officially numbered as of this point. The only question is how finite that number is.
Sterling may have said in a recorded convo with his girlfriend that he doesn’t want black people or Magic Johnson at Clippers games. The NBA should respond by saying it does not want Donald Sterling at NBA games.
And that Magic is welcome anytime, as he always has been.
To Sterling: See you out of the league, sometime soon? We will definitely find out.