It’s curious how if you pay attention as you’re walking through life, trying to do good work, certain things will pop up that either point you in a different direction, or simply affirm the direction you’re currently headed.
Right now I’m in the middle of launching the new blog here at Hollywood 27 (End Racism: The Double Truth), and with multiple posts already planned about my favorite sport, the NBA, I was shocked to see one of the biggest controversies in modern-day sports crash land right at the start of my efforts here.
My first thought was to actually just stay the course and not even comment on the Donald Sterling fiasco, but that would be rather cowardly on my part, and that’s ain’t me.
So let me preface this commentary by openly disclosing that I absolutely love the NBA. I think it is the sport of racial and cultural harmony, it’s the #2 sport around the entire world behind soccer, and I think it continues to break down barriers each and every year.
It’s a great example of teamwork for youth, and with its NBA CARES outreach program, I think it showcases the best players-to-fans interaction of any sport. I love the NBA, and you’ll read more of that in detail in future posts. But now, onto the bull crap that hit the news last week…
As someone who reads other blogs about racism regularly, I can tell you that there’s a very different side to this story than the one you learned about if you watched the NBA’s coverage on TNT or NBA TV. I’ll cover the NBA/TNT version at the end here, but let’s focus on this other side first.
The problem that surfaces from this whole Donald Sterling incident is that this particular transgression of his was by no means his first. In fact, as blatantly idiotic as it was, the recorded conversation shenanigans pale in comparison to what Mr. Sterling has done in the past. Here’s a quick rundown as noted on RacismReview.com, with a very important question at the end:
“In 2009, he settled out of court for racial discrimination of Black and Latino tenants in his apartment complex. Elgin Baylor, former player and executive, sued Sterling for age and race discrimination.
Former player Baron Davis has made public how Sterling’s heckling would cause him “anxiety” before games. Such facts have been available, and in many cases, for many years now, and yet much of this is news for most people. Why?”
A valid question, and I admittedly was shocked to learn of all this. I don’t follow many NBA owners outside of the Bulls, Suns, and then of course the Mavs’ Mark Cuban (since he’s everywhere), so my ignorance on the matter isn’t exactly news.
What is news, however, is how little the media covered Sterling’s past lawsuits and offenses. That’s a valid question to ask, as is this one – Did the NBA implicitly take part in keeping Mr. Sterling under the radar?
But it goes beyond questioning the media and the NBA hierarchy itself… and these other questions are as troubling as any. The biggest question – should we label Donald Sterling as a philanthropist and humanitarian?
In addition to donating thousands to the NAACP (LA Chapter) and already receiving one Lifetime Achievement Award from them in 2009, his overall contributions track record is rather stunning.
Per Slate.com, “Sterling has contributed to youth programs and community groups, supported organizations that serve the Latino and black communities, and garnered a ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ honor from the Black Business Association, all while dodging accusations of bigotry and settling multi-million-dollar lawsuits alleging, in various instances, that he discriminated against tenants at his rental properties based on race.
In one case, the NAACP donor and award winner was accused of saying that ‘black tenants smell and attract vermin’”.
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So if you’re curious as to how the hell a man with such a tarnished track record can receive so many accolades from organizations who should more than frown upon him, well… you’re not alone.
But for as positive of a human being as I am, with all of my belief in the great things I know we, as humanity, can accomplish, I absolutely cannot hide from what is mankind’s mantra right now in this world, and that is, simply, FOLLOW THE MONEY.
It’s something I’m uncovering on a regular basis already with my research over at The Walk a Mile Project, and it’s not a new refrain by any means for us as people. Whether or not Sterling simply threw money at these organizations to keep the wolves at bay, or for any other reason, it doesn’t really matter… what does matter is that the organizations willfully took the cash (assuming that they weren’t aware of Sterling’s history).
Regardless, we’re looking at a pretty big mess here. Let’s sum it up with what we have so far:
- Black leaders in organizations throwing accolades at a proven racist.
- The NBA “looking the other way” over the past several years (if not decades)
- Media outlets inexplicably brushing over Sterling’s past indiscretions until the TMZ recorded conversation blew-up.
Not a pretty picture, and it’s one that’s likely to get uglier as Sterling reacts to the NBA’s rulings against him with litigation and other unpleasantries.
The right thing to do of course would be for him to sell the Clippers ASAP and move on from all of this, but that would be an enormous shock coming from a man with the “I am above everyone else” attitude Sterling firmly seems to hold in place.
All those involved in this, however, need to look in the mirror and ask what’s more important – money or honor? I won’t answer that directly, but I will say that honor can last forever, whereas money never does…
Now before I wrap this up, let me touch on the NBA-reported version of this whole mess. Their fast action in finally condemning Sterling was certainly admirable, and if you watched TNT you saw longtime analyst Ernie Johnson and his 3 NBA player co-hosts (Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaq) speak of how proud they were to be associated with the NBA after Commissioner Adam Silver’s swift and strong reaction to the incident.
They spoke of many of the great things in the league, and how one man’s shortcomings can’t be allowed to poison the beloved association… of how Silver’s actions were exactly the ones needed in a time of instant turmoil. All good stuff, certainly.
But the love fest ignored the one question that may dog the NBA for quite some time – WHY NOW? Why was Donald Sterling tolerated for all these years?
Why was no action taken earlier that might have prevented the current mess and improved the league itself in the process?
Where there might be a sense of pride in Silver’s swift rebuke, there is an equal sense of disgust and disappointment that a cancer like Sterling sat on his distorted perch looking down on the vast majority of non-racists in the league with a smirk and disdain.
In June I’ll talk about all the great things in The Association (and they far outweigh this insanity by the way), but for now, I’ll ask the question that the NBA analysts probably won’t ask on the air – How many other Donald Sterlings are connected in some way to the NBA?
I hope, for the integrity of the league, that they ask that question and earnestly seek the answer as well.