By George E. Curry
NBA Commissioner Alan Silver, who replaced David Stern just two months ago, did what we’ve all been waiting for – he showed Los Angeles Clippers bigoted owner Donald Sterling the nearest exit and told him not to look back.
On Tuesday, Silver banned Sterling from the NBA for life and fined him $2.5 million, the maximum allowed under the NBA constitution and bylaws. Of course, that’s only shoe shine money for someone worth $1.9 billion. Still, it sends a powerful message not only to Sterling, but to others that at least one sector of America is willing to confront brazen racism. Now, the NBA Board of Governors needs to complete what Silver started by forcing Sterling to give up ownership of the Clippers.
Unless you’ve been under a rock or just landed from mars, you should know by now that Sterling, who has a long and acrimonious history with people of color, exposed his true feelings about African Americans in a conversation with his mistress, Vanessa Stiviano, who is almost 50 years his junior. The conversation was apparently taped surreptitiously in Sterling’s home by Stiviano, who describes herself as part Mexican and part Black. A 9-mintute segment of the conversation was posted Saturday to celebrity website TMZ. A 15-minute excerpt was later posted by Deadspin.
There was this exchange in one segment:
V: I don’t understand, I don’t see your views. I wasn’t raised the way you were raised.
DS: Well then, if you don’t feel—don’t come to my games. Don’t bring black people, and don’t come.
V: Do you know that you have a whole team that’s black, that plays for you?
DS: You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?
At one point, Sterling said:
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?…”
“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games…”
“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”
“Don’t put him (Magic Johnson) on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”
Finally, there was the following exchange:
DS: You think I’m a racist, and wouldn’t—
V: I don’t think you’re a racist.
DS: Yes you do. Yes you do.
V: I think you, you—
DS: Evil heart.
DS: It’s the world! You go to Israel, the blacks are just treated like dogs.
V: So do you have to treat them like that too?
DS: The white Jews, there’s white Jews and black Jews, do you understand?
V: And are the black Jews less than the white Jews?
DS: A hundred percent, fifty, a hundred percent.
V: And is that right?
DS: It isn’t a question—we don’t evaluate what’s right and wrong, we live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture.
V: But shouldn’t we take a stand for what’s wrong? And be the change and the difference?
DS: I don’t want to change the culture, because I can’t. It’s too big and too [unknown].
V: But you can change yourself.
DS: I don’t want to change. If my girl can’t do what I want, I don’t want the girl. I’ll find a girl that will do what I want! Believe me. I thought you were that girl—because I tried to do what you want. But you’re not that girl.
Sterling, 81, has a long history of antagonizing Blacks.
In 2009, he paid $2.7 million to settle a suit accusing him of discriminating against Blacks, Latinos and families with children at an apartment building he owned in Los Angeles.
In addition, NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, who spent 22 years with the Clippers, filed a suit against Sterling in 2009 for wrongful termination. According to the Los Angeles Times, “In his deposition, Baylor spoke about what he called Sterling’s ’plantation mentality,’ alleging the owner in the late 1990s rejected a coaching candidate, Jim Brewer, because of race. Baylor quoted Sterling as saying: ‘Personally, I would like to have a white Southern coach coaching poor black players.’ Baylor said he was shocked. ‘And he [Sterling] looked at me and said, ‘Do you think that’s a racist statement?’ I said, ‘Absolutely. That’s plantation mentality.’ ”
Donald Sterling is the Paula Deen of professional basketball. Accordingly, the NBA stuck a fork in him and told him he’s done.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.