Sterling's history of racist and bigoted comments is long
Cue the faux outrage machines and symbolic punishments. We’ve got a racial situation that reached embarrassment level orange.
New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had to do something to protect his league’s brand after Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, made overtly bigoted and unsurprisingly recorded comments to his girlfriend.
Silver had to look strong. After all, three out of four players in the National Basketball Association are black Americans. Sterling’s comments made the list of soundbites that are played in an interminable 24-hour loop on cable television news stations and shared across social media networks by millions of people.
Icons of the NBA like Michael Jordan, now a team owner, and Magic Johnson made bold statements about what should happen to Sterling. Johnson was one of the “black guys” in Instagram photos with the 80-year-old Sterling’s 30-year-old “girlfriend.” I guess he thought giving her a Ferrari, a Bentley and a quarter of a million dollars for living expenses – presumably car insurance – allowed him to tell her what color of friends she could pose with and bring to basketball games.
His relationship with his girlfriend fits easily in the racial sensitivity of Sterling’s entire life. He has no problem employing black people as players, coaches, girlfriends or maids but he really doesn’t want them to get so uppity that they think they are his equals.
After all, this woman is Sterling’s girlfriend in the true fourth grade definition. They eat in the same cafeteria, hang out a little at recess, and he gives her birthday and Valentine’s Day presents, but I doubt there is much going on that would have to be blurred out in the Lifetime Movie of their lives. His relationship with her just helps confirm for him the stories of virility and vitality that the little liar that lives inside every man’s ego continues to tell them long after they are true, if they ever were.
But this man doesn’t mind hiring a few black people for his entertainment and enrichment – the Clippers are worth about 50 times more now than when Sterling bought them. He just wants her to remove all black guys from her Instagram account except for Los Angeles Dodger Matt Kemp because he is of mixed race like the girlfriend and “lighter than her.” He also said he knows almost all of his players are black or of mixed race.
“Do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses,” Sterling said. He went on to tell the woman she could continue to spend time with black men and even sleep with them but he didn’t want her to “promote that” by posing with them and bringing them to his games.
It is hard to find a commentator who hasn’t commented on this controversy.
Even President Barack Obama couldn’t sit on the sidelines for this one. As the nation’s first black president, his comments were expected and appropriate.
But even though none of the backlash was surprising, it still put pressure on the league to some something.
But why now?
Sterling has a long history with the legal system where he lost a huge settlement for not renting apartments to black people because “they attract vermin,” and the NBA, where he has a history of racially insensitive comments.
But the TMZification of America continues. You can be a racist, just don’t be a racist on tape.
Silver came down with a lifetime ban for Sterling and a fine. He even said the league was going to force him to sell his team.
First, the only way the lifetime ban sticks is if Sterling voluntarily goes along with it. Second, a $2.5 million fine for a guy who is a billionaire twice over is like my boss fining me $5 for writing a bad column. (I hope he doesn’t. I really wanted to super size my fries today.) The guy has 2,000 million dollars. He probably carries $2.5 million in his sock wallet.
And finally, Silver and the owners will “force” him to sell his team when FOX News is actually right about racism being dead.
Look at Silver’s monumental equivocation in his comments. He will “do everything in his power” to force the sale and he “fully expects” to get 75 percent of the owners behind him.
That leaves plenty of wiggle room for Silver to get away from those comments this summer when the playoffs are over and the other 29 millionaire and billionaires – many of whom probably at least appreciate Sterling’s comments if they don’t agree with him – vote to leave Sterling in place.
Even if they did take a symbolic stand, good luck in court against a billionaire.
Sterling’s history of racist and bigoted comments is long. He just never was caught on tape making so many in a short time. If the NBA or other owners cared about that, he would already be gone.
Silver’s “tough guy” press conference and hollow promises were merely made to mollify angry players in his own league and to keep fans from turning their backs during the playoffs.
Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org