Calling foul against racism in the NBA

5/6/2014, 10:11 a.m.
The 2006 book, "$40 Million Slaves", captured the dilemma of black professional athletes. Are they heroes and role models of ...
The LA Clippers team recently protested their owner's racist remarks by wearing their shirts inside out.

By Sam Fulwood III

It’s easy—and justifiable—to join the posse that saddled up to ride Donald Sterling right out of the National Basketball Association.

TMZ Sports, a section of celebrity gossip website TMZ, reported late Friday night that it had obtained damning audio of Sterling , who owns the Los Angeles Clippers. The tape is allegedly of Sterling telling his girlfriend that, among other things, he didn’t want her bringing black people—specifically, former Los Angeles Lakers’ star and current businessman Magic Johnson—to watch his team play.

Blow the whistle, ref! That’s a blatant foul! Get him out of the game!

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did exactly that. After a three-day investigation to determine whether Sterling was the person on the audio, Silver announced that he and the league were satisfied it was. As a result, Silver ordered the Clippers’ owner to be banned for life from the NBA and fined him $2.5 million. Additionally, Silver said he would seek to have Sterling’s ownership stripped from him by a two-thirds vote of the league’s 30 team owners.

“We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views,” Silver said to media packed into a New York City hotel ballroom. “They simply have no place in the NBA.”

After the 80-year-old billionaire revealed himself to be the worst kind of person who walks among civilized people, Silver had no alternative. By any reasonable definition, a person who holds the views represented by what was uttered on that tape is a racist and a bigot, as well as sexist; unfortunately for Sterling, Deadspin has released http://deadspin.com/exclusive-the-extended-donald-sterling-tape-1568291249 an expanded—and more damning—version. Sterling is also a hypocrite: His mistress, V. Stiviano, is half-black and half-Mexican.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” his voice says in the recording. “Do you have to?”

He goes on to say, “Don’t put him [Magic Johnson] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”

By shooting off his mouth, albeit in what he thought was a private environment, Sterling, who is white and Jewish, made clear that he doesn’t believe black people are his equal. At one point in the recording, he sounds like an antebellum slave owner, saying of the black Clippers players:

I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?

So, yes, Sterling deserves the widespread condemnation coming from across the nation. There was a long line of people who called foul, including the offended Magic Johnson; fellow NBA team owner and former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan; and current Miami Heat player LeBron James, who said there was “no room” in the NBA for Sterling if the allegations against him turned out to be true. The line even included President Barack Obama, who called the comments “ignorant” and expressed his belief that the NBA will appropriately punish Sterling.