Garbage Removal: Sterling & The NBA

By Julian Reed

Sinister past, sinister present. The most layman’s methodology to describing the structural racist and staunch bigot that is Donald Sterling. Sterling to date also rightfully owns the title of worst owner in all of professional sports. Fielding the lowest winning percentage of any team in the four major sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) in the United States. Yesterday the NBA began a step in the right direction toward people like him not having a place in our society.

Last Friday evening, TMZ posted an audio recording of Sterling having a private conversation with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano. In this conversation, Sterling criticized and scolded Stiviano for “broadcasting to the world” that she associated with African Americans by taking pictures with sports stars like Matt Kemp (outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers) and Magic Johnson (NBA Hall of Famer). Within the conversation, Sterling said many heavily derogatory and bigoted comments. Saturday morning, it would begin to hit the fan.

Sterling’s comments In that audiotape sent shock waves throughout the sports world. Very quickly it became the number one story across the country. Many top NBA players commented (Most notably LeBron James), the President of the United States Barack Obama had a comment about it (while in Malaysia), etc. The situation largely driven by social media quickly spiraled out of control. Rumors traveled that the LA Clippers team (Owned by Sterling) as well as many other NBA playoff participating teams would boycott the NBA if immediate action was not taken to deal with Sterling. The NBA faced tremendous pressure from all sides.

By Tuesday morning with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver set to announce a verdict that afternoon, over 15 sponsors had either pulled their deals with the Clippers or halted them. Those sponsors included CarMax, State Farm, Mercedes Benz, Kia Automotives, Red Bull and Virgin America Airlines.

Everyone in the country was talking about Sterling. This had become a major black eye for the NBA and begged the question “Why was Sterling able to reside as an NBA owner still after multiple sexual harassment and racial discrimination civil suits?” Sterling had revealed himself to be a racist/bigoted slumlord long before the audio tapes had been released.

Legendary and infamous in Los Angeles for denying residence in his apartment buildings to African Americans and Latinos. It also had been known/understood for many years in NBA circles that Sterling was a horrible individual, on top of being a horrible owner. Nobody did anything.

Tuesday afternoon at 2PM, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stepped to a podium in New York City to announce that Donald Sterling would receive a lifetime ban from the NBA, a 2.5 million dollar fine (Maximum allowed), and that the NBA will sell the Clippers. This ruling was met with near universal praise by the public as well as NBA players and executives. In many ways it brought about some semblance of closure to an equally arduous and pivotal situation that will be remembered as a defining moment in American sports history. However, I do caution people to see the big picture.

Today can be a day of celebration at the removal and banishment of Donald Sterling. But in my mind it was never about Sterling an individual racist/bigot, but racism and bigotry in the US and globally. Societally, we succeeded at driving home the message that we will not tolerate such abhorrent attitudes to infest our society.

Fans that attended the Clippers playoff game yesterday (many wearing black) stood united with the players and the country with a resounding “We are one”. This served as another profound platform for that message, but the fight is not over. Still, after round 1, America 1, racism/bigotry 0. I can live with that.


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