Why is it that words are what finally broke the NBA’s back?
By Carl Petersen
“There’s no racism here. If you don’t want to be...walking...into a basketball game with a certain...person, is that racism?”
- Donald Sterling (1)
Yes, it is pretty much the perfect example of racism when you decide who you will be seen in public with based on their skin color. It is the direct opposite of judging people “by the content of their character.” (2) Similar mindsets have allowed the lynching of Will Brown, the murder of 11 million people in concentration camps and the elimination of three quarters of the Tutsi population in Rwanda. (3) (4) (5) After all, would any of these atrocities have occurred if we had not allowed ourselves to view another group as inferior based on some bias?
Sterling’s taped admonishment of his girlfriend for bringing “black people” to Clippers games was deemed by NBA commissioner Adam Silver as “contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multi-ethnic league.” (6) (7) As a result he was suspended for life and fined the maximum amount allowed by the league’s constitution. He will probably be forced to sell the team. However, if Silver were really “personally distraught” at the “views expressed by Mr. Sterling,” why did it take this long for him and his predecessors to act. (8) Actions are certainly more telling than words and allegations of Sterling’s past actions have contributed to his less than stellar reputation.
In 2006 a lawsuit was filed by the Justice Department alleging that his company would not rent to non-Koreans or to families with children. While he paid $3 million to settle the charges, he did so without admitting guilt. (9) Another $2.73 million was paid to settle a 2009 suit by the same agency. (10) While the NBA had no justification for taking definitive action without a clear finding of guilt or innocence, they could have investigated the charges on their own. An organization that was serious about not tolerating bigotry within its ranks certainly would have taken this step, especially if these accusations suggested a possible pattern.
Allegations made against Sterling in a 2003 lawsuit by a nonprofit and tenants detailed “numerous discriminatory statements and housing practices.” (11) The resolution of this case included a judgment of nearly $5 million against Sterling to pay for the plaintiff's legal fees. (12) Once again the NBA was not provided with a definite conclusion to work with as the details of the settlement ending the case were not released. However, the court documents must have provided enough fodder for an investigation.
Our country provides the freedom to speak our mind even when our opinions are unpopular. What this freedom does not provide is protection from the consequences of our actions. It is too bad that it took a tape recorded under suspicious circumstances and reporting from a celebrity news website to finally make Sterling pay his piper.
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(1) (6) http://deadspin.com/exclusive-the-extended-donald-sterling-tape-1568291249
(7) (8) http://nba.si.com/2014/04/29/donald-sterling-suspension-fine-adam-silver-clippers/
(9) (11) (12) http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/27/us/donald-sterling-lawsuits/
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