Donald Sterling: Facepalm

Donald Sterling is rich. He’s crass. He’s old school. He’s into younger chicks. You can’t blame him for these things. It’s just what he is. There’s just one more thing that the man is.

Racist.

When you are young, parents and teachers ask you what you want to be when you grow up. An astronaut, a fireman, a doctor- those are accepted answers. “Backward-thinking bigoted racist” is not what anyone aspires to be. There are many factors that have led to Sterling’s way of thinking, but none of which make it acceptable at all, especially in 2014. This is a time where social media rules all, and it was never more evident than yesterday. It began with people reminding everyone about this 2009 ESPN piece on Sterling’s sketchy ways.

Up until the last few years, Sterling’s biggest crime was being one of the worst owners in sports. He was the head of a franchise that seemed cursed at times, drafting and whiffing on so many highly-rated lottery picks it became passe. The culture of losing cultivated bad attitudes by many a player, and then it changed. Blake Griffin was drafted in 2009, and Chris Paul made his way to the Clippers in 2011. Since then the team has been molded into a contender, and this year finished with the team’s best record in its entire history.

But Sterling hadn’t changed- and that might have been his biggest crime of all.

This piece by Peter Keating is damning to say the least and an eye opener. If you knew anything about Sterling, this revelation was not very surprising. It’s just the simple fact that he actually had this discussion with his girlfriend in 2014 was surprising. It’s not even a quick quote, or one word – or anything that can be misconstrued. It’s a nine minute and twenty-six second noose that goes in circles. Sterling says his girlfriend has every right to be around people of African-American ethnicity all day and all night. He brings up Instagram, causing her to reference Magic Johnson who she had taken a picture with. He tells her she can feed him -and in gentler words- sleep with him. She just can’t take African American people with her to Clippers’ games.

It’s not like Sterling is an owner in a league that is made up predominantly of black men. Oh wait- he is.

What is infuriating is not only what he says, but how much conviction lies behind each and every nonsensical word. They go back and forth, with the problem apparently being his girlfriend’s need to “broadcast” her association with people of color:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”

Forget the fact that Sterling is still married, separated from his wife for years, yet dating another female. Forget the fact that he is a ruthless and tactless real estate mogul who has been known to profile his tenants. Forget the fact that he had been known to berate and insult former Clippers guard Baron Davis during practices and games. His girlfriend’s Instagram is the “end all/be all” of wrongdoing. It’s even a far greater sin to him than adultery, or so he implies.

Any time she begins to reason with Sterling, he simply huffs and puffs and tells her how her words are “painful”, or how she is a “born fighter”. Sterling wants to play the victim here, but he’s far from it. His argument is flimsier than balsa wood, yet he continues to try and make her feel guilty.

Twitter exploded yesterday into a mix of scorn, disgust and shock. Magic Johnson was quick to respond, citing he and his wife would never attend a Clippers’ game as long as Sterling owned the team, and noted that Sterling’s comments are a black eye for the NBA. Cue Adam Silver, the league’s brand-new commissioner.

This is his first big test as head of the league. How will he respond to it? What will the penalty be for Sterling? He has already said Sterling will not attend Game 4 between the Clippers and Warriors, but also showed restraint in his next statement, courtesy of ESPN.com:

“All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy. The core of the investigation is understanding whether the tape is authentic, interviewing Mr. Sterling and interviewing the woman as well and understanding the context in which it was recorded.”

Yet even with the fair method, Silver admitted the process would move “extraordinarily quickly”. And it must. The Clippers don’t need this distraction in midst of their finest season, one which saw Blake Griffin grow by leaps and bounds behind the tutelage of head coach Doc Rivers and leadership of Chris Paul.

Most importantly, society doesn’t need it. The uproar to the recording has been powerful and swift, and if the public’s opinion decided the penalty, Sterling would lose ownership in a heartbeat and be condemned to his own personal Corsica.

The difference between him and Napoleon? Napoleon was remembered for his days of glory even after his exile. The general public will try and forget Sterling ever existed, and for that I don’t blame them.

 

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