Wow! Just when you thought it was safe to go out, Donald Sterling came lurking from the shadows. This NBA basketball season was supposed to be about basketball and the growing legend of Lebron James, but for the most part it was derailed by an ugly and divisive racial scandal perpetrated by an aging owner and his side “chick.”
The NBA and public outrage came crashing down on the Los Angeles Clippers headman but left many unanswered questions. How did a man with a slave master attitude and a checkered past in race relations last as long as he did?
Many black people knew about this man’s racism and still continue to stay in good graces with him. How can we publicly condemn Sterling for racist language used in private when some black millionaires use it in public? Does Sterling racist rants in the privacy of his own home compare with the self-hating genocidal language utter every day in music, television and on the street? Who has more influence on your teenager, Sterling or any gangster rapper?
It was a shock that in 2014 someone would be that blatant and stupid enough to get themselves recorded making a racist statement about well-known employees, especially when you are a multi-millionaire. I didn’t even know who Sterling was because I’m not a basketball fan. I dare say that most of you hadn’t heard of him either but because of his stature in the ranks of professional sports it is understandable why we would all be concerned.
He generated a lot of heated discussion on sports radio and television. ESPN had a field day. So did social media such as Youtube and Facebook. What was supposed to have been a sports story turned into the continuing debate about race in America. Here you have an owner of a professional basketball team talking about famous black athletes as if they were field hands on the plantation.
This is a multimillionaire talking about other millionaires as if they were on different levels. In Sterling’s world he is not a racist as long as he gives black people jobs and doesn’t have to associate personally with them. The NBA is a business and they have a business code. As a business entity they have a right to demand that their members operate under certain rules of conduct. The NBA commissioner decided that Sterling’s actions had violated those “rules of conduct.” As a group the NBA decided to kick him out of their group.
Now for years people knew that Sterling had questionable attitudes toward race. He was being sought by the government because of complaints of him violating fair housing practices. Didn’t anyone in the NBA know about this? How is it that he got an award from the Los Angeles NAACP when there were so many complaints about his racism? Is the NBA coming down on Sterling because they are also appalled about his racist attitude, or is the NBA afraid that he is going to spill the beans about their racist practices? At least the NBA should be questioned for not paying more attention.
However, is there something not a little unsettling about coming down on a man for comments he made in the privacy of his own home? How would you feel if you were judged at your job or business by comments you made at home about a fellow coworkers. I dare say the very people who want to get rid of Sterling for his words in an illegally taped conversation are the very same people who are against illegal wiretaps.
Let’s get real here. We get mad if a policeman stops our car in public for no apparent reason. Even in court evidence of wrongdoing it is not admissible if someone comes to your house and gets it illegally. We rightfully condemn the actions of the FBI against Dr. King, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and others by wiretapping their phones and homes. Even stupid old cheating racist should be allowed to say what they believe in while they’re at home.
It’s called freedom of speech. Notice Sterling said nasty things about black people but never uses the N word. Yet we give free passes and excuses for people who not only use the N word but talk about disrespecting and killing black people.
YouTube personality Tommy Sotomayor also brought up the point that Donald Sterling rant had a lot to do with the reputation social media has got for spreading unflattering and photographic material. SotoMayor suggests that Magic Johnson was upset because he realized that as great as he was, he wasn’t in the “old boys club.”
Sotomayor questioned “are you a racist because you do not want to socially associate with your employees?” On the surface one might say yes! Suppose that employee were gay? It would be wrong not to hire that person because they were gay! But would it be wrong if you asked your children not to associate with them away from work?
The irony in this situation is that Sterling will probably make more money because he has to sell the team. When he bought the Clippers it wasn’t worth nearly as much as it is now and he will make a hefty profit. There are others who also make money off of their racism. Hip-hop stars who constantly talk about stealing, disrespecting women and killing black people make a lot of money also. They call it art and they hide behind the same freedom of speech that some of us would deny Sterling.