By Ygal Kaufman
Waves were made in the NBA this week, by the Los Angeles Clippers, but not in a good or even nautical way. A recording was leaked which features Donald Sterling, 80-year-old owner of the team, telling his girlfriend (who is of course not to be confused with his wife) not to bring black people to Clippers games, among other terrible things.
Here’s the score, for the fans at home: Sterling has been a well-known racist for years. Elgin Baylor, NBA Hall-of-Famer, African American and former Clippers GM, claimed a laundry list of horrors under Sterling’s rule, including a “plantation-style” management system. Baron Davis, a former all-star and one of the best point guards of the 2000s, claimed that Sterling used to hurl insults and racial epithets at him while he was on the court, playing for the Clippers! Tenants of buildings Sterling owned, alleging racism and illegal business practices against African American and Latino renters, filed a lawsuit. Sterling settled out of court for $2.76 million.
Apparently none of that was enough to get Bob Costas riled up. In fact, despite his documented record of behavior, everyone sort of gave Sterling a pass.
The reason is that people don’t care that much who is or isn’t racist at home, especially if they own a basketball team, or a movie studio, or a record label. Fellow gajillionaire Donald Trump lamented only that Sterling got suckered into being recorded expressing himself, not that his good friend Donald (a Donald, not the Donald) is a racist troglodyte.
Sterling’s employees? It’s the real world and these guys are working in a business trying to get the best value they can for their services. Do they really care if the guy at the top of the ladder is a racist? The team is making money, the arena is filled, the Lakers suck for the first time in years, the Clippers are a contender.
It all may have to burn to get rid of Sterling; the racist everyone knows is a racist. As opposed to last week, when he was Sterling; the racist everyone knew was a racist.
Who was scheduled to receive an NAACP lifetime achievement award (really).
He’ll now be forced to sell the team; advertisers are running for the hills, and the players are planning on-court protests. The NBA handed down a lifetime ban on Tuesday, along with a $2.5 million fine, the largest the league allows. Not to quantify outrages here, but former player Latrell Sprewell didn’t get a fine that big when he choked his own coach in practice. Another former player, Ruben Patterson, pled guilty to attempted rape of his kids’ nanny and received no fine from the NBA.
The revenue that would have flowed in to Sterling will now flow forth from Sterling, as he prostrates himself before the NAACP, NBA, maybe the ADL, certainly the IRS, and of course, CP3.
He’ll spend and spend, and after selling the team for reportedly north of a billion dollars, he’ll have some spare cash to spend. And everyone will either forget about it in the Mel Gibson sense (sentence, five years to next hit movie) or in the Jimmy the Greek sense (life without parole).
The only new element in this well-worn saga is that he was heard on the audio telling his girlfriend to take down any Instagram photos with black people, including Magic Johnson.
Racism we could stomach, but nobody %#@*s on Magic Johnson.