Should readers have accepted the prevailing conventional wisdom on the case of Donald T. Sterling, they may not wish to read any further because this columnist takes exception to it. I disagree with what the Clippers’ owner had to say in his prejudicial rant, but I do not agree with the punishments the NBA has decided to try to impose. Why? Because, to employ an old cliché, the punishment does not fit the crime.
Let’s be candid and realistic about this. It’s hypocritical and naïve to think that there are not other NBA team owners, coaches, team members and staff who do not hold untoward opinions about minorities and, yes, about whites, too,—no better or more respectable than Sterling’s. In fairness, if people such as Sterling are thrown to the disapproving masses, shouldn’t all nasty negatives be recorded and presented for public review?
One of the principals in this case invites questions. Among contributing factors, there’s contradictions where V. Stiviano says she’s not Donald Sterling’s mistress, simply an employee hired to serve as the L.A. Clippers’ archivist; yet, she occupies a front row seat for Clippers’ games, right next to Sterling, inviting the skeptical mind to wander widely into romance musings. It’s reported, too, that Sterling gave V. Stiviano a $1.8 million apartment and several super-luxury automobiles.
Is it remotely possible that Donald Sterling’s remarks about Earvin “Magic” Johnson were inspired because he thought Johnson was making a move on his “employee”? Perhaps the taking of photos with handsome, famous men like Johnson by Stiviano was calculated to play on Sterling’s emotions. Could it be that Stiviano conspired to gain a greater commitment for herself from Sterling?
Ten NBA owners, known as the league’s advisory committee, held a conference call last week to discuss the termination of Sterling’s ownership of the L.A. Clippers. It unanimously agreed with new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to end Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers. Silver also banned Sterling from NBA games for life and fined him $2.5 million.
More dust up in the NBA’s efforts to toss Sterling out of the game may be futile by way of the Sterling family trust. That trust can, of course, be changed so that he is taken out of Clippers’ ownership and his wife becomes the sole owner. Even though the estranged wife, Rochelle Sterling, has not been a darling to California minorities, what happens if she’s the sole Clippers’ owner? Meanwhile, Sterling has a reputation for not backing down; in fact, he’s well known for using his billionaire financial resources to defend himself in court and you know what money means in America.
Sterling has a reputation for egregious sentiments and remarks about minorities but those statements did not apparently make much difference to the very wealthy NBA basketball icons who did not stand up for their brothers and sisters who were poorly treated by Sterling and his estranged wife. No, it required a racial insult leveled at a rich black guy to get the NBA “greats” to demand extraordinary punishments for Sterling.
It may or may not be noteworthy that while Sterling was in a housing discrimination lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department and has spent millions to settle a similar lawsuit brought by a fair housing group that accused him of trying to exclude blacks, Latinos and families with children from renting apartments he owns, he has given at least $1 million Sterling bucks to 10 high schools in south and east Los Angeles where minorities are the majority, plus 20 charities across Los Angeles County. His gifts to Jewish organizations also count in millions of dollars.
While this opinion piece argues that millions upon millions of Americans hold views like Sterling’s and express them every day, that does not make them right or okay. What the American society should do about this bad habit is to dedicate our heads, hearts and language to purging racism from our thoughts and spoken words instead of making one American a scapegoat for a national disgrace that knows no boundaries by race, religion, political affiliation, economic status and U.S. sub-cultures:
Sterling’s likely to fight the sanctions, as he should; we should all battle racism.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)