I know, I know, it’s been a while people. Let’s not waste any time parsing why it’s been so long – damn you academics – and let’s get to something that’s been in the news for the last couple weeks and apparently isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Which is good, because it gives me a chance to comment on it. Without much further ado, here are some thoughts on all things related to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, his conversation with his girlfriend V. Stiviano that was leaked by TMZ, and all of the ensuing aftermath:
- Let’s start by saying that the comments Mr. Sterling made in his conversation with Ms. Stiviano were reprehensible. I’m not going to spend any more time than I already have attempting to find a transcript and I am most certainly not going to listen to the actual conversation. You don’t have to get much further than, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to? (TMZ Sports)” Ernie Johnson, host of “Inside the NBA” on TNT, said it very well in saying, “If it’s true and if it’s him, there’s no place in the league for Donald Sterling in my mind.”
- Many people have said (and will continue to say) that they already knew Donald Sterling was evil and racist and many other negative things. If that’s the case, great — but then again I would argue you didn’t do a good enough job of screaming from the rooftops. However, I can’t stand those out there saying they knew before that he was evil and reprehensible and that they’ve been saying this all along…when they haven’t. Don’t say “I told you so” if a. You didn’t tell me so or b. You didn’t put in very much effort when you were telling me so.
- The above point said, however, yes this is not the first time Donald Sterling has done something bad and proven he shouldn’t be allowed in the league. There are the reports of bringing women into the Clippers locker room while the players were showering and saying remarks like, “Look at those beautiful black bodies.” There are the reports from the end of the last decade of Sterling sitting courtside at Clippers home games and heckling his own players, especially Baron Davis. There are the discrimination lawsuits against Donald-Sterling-the-real-estate-owner, who allegedly refused to rent or lease properties to minorities and made public quotes such as “black people smell and attract vermin” and “[Hispanics] just smoke and hang around the building.” And of course, there was the age-and-racial discrimination lawsuit filed by former Clippers GM and Lakers legend Elgin Baylor, alleging that Sterling had made statements saying he wanted to fill the Clippers roster with “poor black boys from the South and a white head coach.” It shouldn’t have taken these comments made in a conversation with his girlfriend for the league to realize Donald Sterling had to go. But it did, it happened, and now we act accordingly.
- I’ll only talk briefly in saying that yes, it sounds like that conversation was recorded “illegally” by Ms. Stiviano. I say “illegally” because nothing has happened in a court of law yet and certainly not in a criminal court. If the government had recorded the conversation in question? Yes, then we’d have something to talk about. Did Ms. Stiviano invade Donald Sterling’s privacy? Maybe. But because we’re in a court of public opinion and not a U.S. criminal court, it’s frankly considerably easier to say that the ends justified the means.
- Let’s get back to Donald Sterling, the evil Clippers owner, and say that while many have echoed Ernie Johnson’s comments in saying that there is no place in the NBA for that way of thinking and for someone making those remarks, I think it’s important to take things a step further and say that there is no place in society for someone who is stuck that far back in time. Moreover, I’ll regrettably invoke a semi-strawman argument here and say that for anyone out there who chooses to say that Sterling grew up in a different time and that should somehow excuse him, you can join him in leaving. If a word, thought, action, etc. is evil and reproachable, it is evil and reproachable regardless of when it happens. Just because society is more likely to accept hate and bigotry at a given point in history does not make hate or bigotry any more ethical or any less objectionable.
- Huge kudos must be given to Dave D’Alessandro, Newark Star-Ledger columnist, for his fantastic piece in which he points out that Donald Sterling is not unique in being the owner of an NBA franchise who has done and said things that should not be accepted lightly but have been. D’Alessandro points out no less than five other NBA owners whose actions in their business practices and in their personal lives have been nothing short of egregious. And yet, here we are. Clay Bennett still owns the Thunder, Dan Gilbert still owns the Cavaliers, Richard DeVos still owns the Magic, Ted Leonsis still owns the Wizards, and Mikhail Prokhorov still owns the Brooklyn Nets. In truth? The NBA should find a way to clean house of its most corrupt owners so that it can have a prouder league with a better image. If, how, and when that would happen is an entirely different question.
- I’d also be remiss to not join the chorus of people who have given props to Adam Silver. The man is in his first year on the job and has already done more about the ethics and morals of his owners than David Stern did in his 30 years as NBA Commissioner. He addressed the situation promptly, conducted an investigation (or, let’s be honest, at least we’ve been told an investigation was conducted) in a speedy manner, and promptly issued his ruling. To speak slightly less eloquently, Silver put the hammer down (and yes, I’m hoping you’re also thinking of some “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” references here). Banning Sterling for life and suspending him $2.5 million was a bold statement and one that was much appreciated. It should also be said that Silver’s press conference announcing the suspension was one of the best press conferences I’ve seen in years, and frankly I’ve seen my share of press conferences. Silver was concise, succinct, spoke clearly and with great tone, and made no bones about what he was doing. My only qualm with the Q&A was with the media personnel who were allowed to ask questions, let alone credentialed. I’d like to think had I been in charge of that event, many of those people would not have been in the room and they certainly would not have been allowed to ask questions.
- I’ll say only slightly more about V. Stiviano…which is to say that she seems like she’s got her own bit of insanity, she’s certainly not the most well educated woman one could find, and boy oh boy did she want her 15 minutes of fame. Hopefully, her time has expired and we can move on from her. As I’m typing this, though, I’m realizing there’s no chance she’s not on reality TV soon. Oy vey.
- Let’s try and bring things a bit further toward the present, shall we? Sterling sat down with Anderson Cooper and did not help his cause in the slightest. I’ve told people already that Sterling’s eyelids were disturbing enough, which is to say the man looks like he could croak at any moment. But continuing to bring up Magic Johnson signals to me that there’s definitely something else going on there with Magic and Mr. Sterling. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something there that we don’t know yet. Furthermore, as Michael McCann, the famed sports law guru, as well as Dan Patrick have already said, anyone who advised Donald Sterling to do a sit-down with Anderson Cooper should be fired. Across the board just a poor decision. Not to mention, Mr. Sterling, if you were going to apologize, what took you so long? Although saying something like, “If I offended anyone, I apologize” can’t really be considered much of an apology.
- The only thing left, outside of course of more ridiculous things being learned and lingering fallout, is the removal of Sterling as Clippers owner. It’s been pointed out by many already that this certainly won’t be a speedy process, although I’m sure Adam Silver and the rest of us would all want it to be. There’s too much money at stake. The Clippers will no doubt garner more than 1 BILLION DOLLARS on the open market. Will they even reach the open market? Sterling’s wife Rochelle, or Shelly or whatever the hell she wants to be known as, is likely going to try and fight and keep control somehow. And now we have people like Charles Barkley saying the players will not play next year if Sterling is still the owner on opening day? Roger Mason Jr. saying that LeBron James will not play if Sterling is still the owner (come on Roger, don’t give LeBron something else to deal with right now. The playoffs are still happening)? There’s no doubt this story will quiet down over time, with occasional rumbling piping up here and there. The mainstream media will stop running with it quite as much, but the WWL will talk Donald Sterling until they’re as red in the face as the Clippers road jerseys. For now, we can only hope that this ridiculous mess does not continue to overshadow what has been an highly entertaining playoffs so far.