With Donald Sterling gone: What now?
On Tuesday afternoon, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned now-defunct Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA for life, in addition to fining him the league-maximum $2.5 million.
In case you missed the drama over the weekend, here’s the gist of what happened: A mistress of Sterling’s, known only as V. Stiviano by the media, released an audio tape that was recorded (without Sterling knowing) while Stiviano and Sterling were arguing one night in a private residence.
Sterling made clearly racist remarks throughout the altercation, and I encourage you to go take a listen for yourself if you want the full impact.
The audiotape’s release led to an expansive public outcry. Media outlets both in and out of the sports world were quick to set Sterling’s feet to the fire. Magic Johnson took Sterling’s comments personally.
President Barack Obama made a public statement of disdain regarding Sterling’s comments. Some people suggested that Clippers fans should boycott games until Sterling left the organization.
Clippers players took off their jackets at half-court during the pre-game shoot-around of Game 4 at Golden State and warmed up with their shirts inside out, so as to hide their Clippers logos.
After the decision to ban Sterling for life came down on Tuesday, a lot of this outcry turned into satisfaction.
Players, coaches, journalists, Magic Johnson, Ellen DeGeneres et al. lauded commissioner Silver for his decision to remove a racist owner from the league.
Although even the NBA will admit there is more to do, such as get the Board of Governors (i.e. owners) to approve taking the Clippers away from Sterling and selling the team to someone else, there seems to
be a feeling of “We’re moving on!” from almost all of those who were upset in the first place.
Honestly, I don’t know if that’s such a good position for people to be in. Obviously we don’t want racists running sports teams in America — we can all agree on that. Heck, we don’t want racists in America
period; unfortunately, this may never be the case. Will we ever not have racists as team owners in professional sports? This seems to be debatable.
I’m going down this road because I think it’s important we take a step back and realize what the NBA has just done.
The NBA banned a known racist owner from the league. They did this not because of the racist owner’s actions but because of what the racist owner said in a private residence. I repeat: They did this not
because of the racist owner’s actions but because of what the racist owner said in a private residence.
Now, I am not here to make excuses for Sterling. He’s a racist pig and deserves the punishment he’s gotten – but not for the remarks he made to his mistress one late night in California.
He deserves the punishment because of his past discriminatory actions. As Bomani Jones astutely pointed out a handful of times over the last decade, Sterling was the driving force of housing discrimination
policies against minorities in the Los Angeles area for years.
These are the same kinds of policies that have led to socio-economic stratification and poverty for an overwhelming percentage of minorities in cities like Baltimore and Chicago over the last several decades. I
might also want to point out that cities like Baltimore and especially Chicago have had hard times with violence over the last several decades as well. This is not simply a coincidence in regards to the effects of
housing or employment discrimination.
To bring things full circle, we should be careful as to what we punish people for when it comes to racism in this country.
There is no doubt that Donald Sterling needed to be removed from the NBA and the Clippers organization – but not necessarily because of things he said in the privacy of someone’s home. Sadly, this is the
primary reason why Sterling was punished. Because of this, it seems to me that the wrong message was sent.
If making racist remarks in private will get you in hot water, what about committing racist, oppressive actions in public? Are we going to pick our spots as a society when it comes to what racist behaviors we punish people for? Or are we going to step up to the plate and say, “You know what — maybe we’ve been looking at this the wrong way. Maybe, instead of blaming the new wave of old white men in our society
every few years for the racism that still exists in this country, we can change our course by actively addressing the oppression of minorities we always say we’re going to change through actions, but merely talk
about with words?”
The banishment of Donald Sterling was necessary, but it cannot be the endgame of our fight against racism in sports and in this country on the whole.
Instead of just making an example of Sterling, we should make him the first of many dominos to fall in an attempt to actively change the racist DNA this country seems to be unable to shake.