Do you like NBA basketball? Are you a fan of the Los Angeles Clippers? Great! They’re in the playoffs, and have a good chance to make a deep run. There’s even a home game this Tuesday! You should come...wait, are you black?
Jeez, sorry to say this, but you’re out of luck, buddy. Late last night, TMZ released a recording of a conversation between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his special lady friend. (Yes, he’s married. The woman in question is not his wife.) Feel free to listen to the entire thing; just make sure you’ve already bought Purell in bulk.
If you’d rather not suffer through 10 minutes of the whinging of a leathery, vile, unrepentant-yet-oblivious bigot, here's a brief summary: He berates her for posting a photo of Magic Johnson to “The Instagram,” hanging out with black people (he’s fine with her doing so in private), and worst of all, bringing black people to “his games.”
So to clarify: Black Clipper fans, the owner would prefer it if you not attend in person, and in particular, not with his girlfriend. Not because he himself harbors any prejudice; it’s that the world does, you see?
While Donald Sterling may personally bemoan the fact that we still live in a bleak, retrograde, unenlightened, still-racist culture and wish with all of his Grinch-sized heart that it were not so, since this is the toxic air we breathe, he’s just trying to ensure that his significant other not sully her image as a “Delicate Latina Girl or a Delicate White Girl” by associating with you blacks publicly.
Prejudice has so, so many victims, and one of them is not-racist Donald Sterling and his poor, beleaguered, and probably self-loathing girlfriend. You’ll note that his girlfriend is of black and Latino heritage, and if you’re inclined to think this somehow contradicts his (allegedly) racist rantings, the answer is that Donald Sterling really doesn’t think he’s got a prejudiced bone in his flaccid body, because, hey, look at his black/Latina mistress! He’s just a plugged-in cat that knows how the world really works and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, or ask the tough questions, like Cliven Bundy. This is his [allegedly] actual thought process. I listened to the entire feculent tape so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Yes, this is vile and repugnant but with regards to billionaire slumlord Donald Sterling, it’s not exactly breaking news. He has a long history of being one of the worst human beings (for lack of a better word) on the planet. Here’s an incomplete, but still hateful, rundown:
In 2005, he paid a staggering $2.73 million plus $4.9 million in legal fees to settle a lawsuit that alleged that he was discriminating against Hispanics, blacks and families with children. As ESPN reported:
Cultivating his image, Davenport said, meant no blacks, no Mexican-Americans, no children (whom Sterling called “brats”) and no government-housing-subsidy recipients as tenants. So according to the testimony of tenants, Sterling employees made life difficult for residents in some of his new buildings. They refused rent checks, then accused renters of nonpayment. They refused to do repairs for black tenants and harassed them with surprise inspections, threatening residents with eviction for alleged violations of building rules.
When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to Davenport. That’s “because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they' re not clean,” he said, according to Davenport’s testimony. “And it’s because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day.” He added: “So we have to get them out of here.”
In February 2009, Sterling was sued by former longtime Clippers executive Elgin Baylor for discrimination on the basis of age and race, during which Baylor alleged that Sterling wanted a team composed of “poor black boys from the South … playing for a white coach,” and had the goofy habit of bringing women into the locker room (again, women that were not his wife) to show off his prized charges. Read the account below and try not to cringe at the thought of Sterling treating human beings like well-paid livestock (at best) From ESPN.com:
“Players Sam Cassell, Elton Brand and Corey Maggette complained to me that Donald Sterling would bring women into the locker room after games, while the players “were showering, and make comments such as, ‘Look at those beautiful black bodies.’ I brought this to Sterling’s attention, but he continued to bring women into the locker room.”
And that’s just the top of the iceberg, including a bizarre deposition in a sexual harassment lawsuit (shockingly, Sterling’s a misogynist pig, too), where he bragged: “Well, I fool around sometimes. I do. When a girl seduces me and tells me how much she wants to suck on me and take my shoes off and licks my feet and touches me. When I’m in a limousine, she takes off all her clothes. The limo driver said, ‘What is going on?’ And she started sucking me on the way to Mr. Koon’s house. And I thank her. I thank her for making me feel good.”
The question he was asked was, “Is this your handwriting?”
Save for center DeAndre Jordan’s posting of this somewhat cryptic Instagram photo, none of the Clippers has publicly commented on Sterling’s dreck. The Los Angeles Daily News reported that the Clippers have already had a team meeting to discuss the matter, but other current and former players have sounded off.
Shaun Livingston, who played for Sterling for three seasons said, “If you look at it, I would say it’s probably disappointing to a lot of people, but if you look at what’s kind of gone on in the past, it’s very unfortunate. But I think it kind of tells the same story as what’s been told, if you pull up the record.”
Magic Johnson, whose photo sparked this entire sordid affair, was far more blunt:
Mike Bass, the NBA’s executive vice president of communications, issued this official statement:
“We are in the process of conducting a full investigation into the audio recording obtained by TMZ. The remarks heard on the recording are disturbing and offensive, but at this time we have no further information.”
Additionally, Scott Cacciola of The New York Times reported that Commissioner Adam Silver would be addressing the media before tonight’s Memphis-Oklahoma City game, but there should be some kind of suspension forthcoming. Considering Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 and Roy Hibbert $75,000 for using gay slurs, and Matt Barnes and J.R. Smith were fined $25,000 for using inappropriate language on Twitter, Sterling’s going to have to cut a check (ironically, one from a bankbook that’s been filled via dollars accrued by continuing his legally-difficult-to-prove discriminatory business practices).
There will probably be a tepid “if I offended anyone” apology from Sterling, and some hand-wringing in the national sporting press about how this might affect the team’s chances versus Golden State, or if potential free agent signees might think twice before agreeing to work for an individual that, as ESPN’s Chris Broussard said this afternoon, “has the mentality of an Antebellum slave master, in that, it’s okay to make money off of African-Americas, but he doesn’t view them as equal human beings.” But it’s hilarious to think that a punishment might result from a possibly illegal recording, when the league has done absolutely nothing in response to the numerous on-the-record statements he’s made, such as the ones listed above.
Charles Barkley, speaking during halftime of the Hawks-Pacers game, certainly agreed: “[Adam Silver] has to suspend [Donald Sterling] and fine him immediately.”
The question is, suspend him from what? Attending games? Heckling his own team? The fact remains, just as he’s still collecting rent checks and possibly doing a slightly better job of disguising his distaste for certain non-white people, there’s no means by which the league could force him to sell.
It took years to force the Maloofs off the throne in Sacramento, even though their only crime was being absolutely incompetent and broke. James Dolan has been a walking, bleak joke for over a decade, but unless there’s a New Yorker with $2 billion or so to spend, he’s dictator-for-life.
If the league does decide that this klansman without a hood (and maybe everyone who was offended by/clutched their pearls at Hank Aaron’s recent comments can walk away slowly now) shouldn’t be a member of their fraternity, it’s because there’s a massive popular uprising from players and fans alike declaring that his continued presence in the NBA is simply unacceptable.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Mobilizing a protest isn’t something you can demand, because for one, since the players threatened to boycott the All-Star game in 1964 to force the owners to institute a pension plan, the political mood has tended to follow Michael Jordan’s example, when he famously refused to help Jesse Helms's opponent by declaring, “Republicans buy sneakers too.”
Two, it shouldn’t be the victim’s job to educate or rehabilitate ignorant vermin like Sterling, and a Clippers boycott of Game Four would only end up harming the players themselves, not to mention the fans and the Golden State Warriors. It’d also turn the entire affair into a debate about their actions, letting Sterling off the hook, to a certain degree.
The fact remains that Sterling is an exorbitantly wealthy individual who pays fines to continue to luxuriate in the ability to act like a California incarnation of Bull Connor. The arc of history finally bending toward justice is probably going to have to wait for cavemen like Sterling to die off.
For now, the best response is either weary, realistic resignation similar to Indiana forward David West’s declaration that: “He [Sterling] is who he is, they ain’t going to change the man. The man’s going to go to his grave being who he is. … This is not going to change him. It ain’t going to change just because he has black athletes or whatever. He is who he is. There have been folks before him and they’re been a ton of them after him.”
Or, there’s always Snoop Dogg’s NSFW screed.
I’ll stick with Snoop. Fuck you, Donald Sterling. I hope this kerfuffle won’t interfere with the Lifetime Achievement Award you’re scheduled to receive in May from the NAACP.