Sterling Is Out of Control

Nate Levinson, Sports Editor

By now, you’ve probably heard about Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments to his Black girlfriend, caught on tape by TMZ and reported last Friday.

For those who haven’t heard, the Clippers’ owner of 33 years told his girlfriend he didn’t want her to associate with Black after she posted pictures of herself with NBA legend Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp on Instagram. He also said he didn’t want her bringing Black to Clippers games.

In case that doesn’t serve as an accurate description of him, in addition to his girlfriend, Sterling also has a wife of over 50 years.

Yeah, he’s a big-time jerk.

It’s not as if this is an isolated incident for Sterling, either. In 2006, he was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for housing discrimination for allegedly using race as a factor in filling apartment buildings he owned. Iin 2009 he was sued by NBA Hall-of-Famer and former Clippers manager Elgin Baylor for age- and race-based discrimination.

Sterling was somehow able to escape these situations with his ownership of the team intact and his reputation relatively unscathed, but that won’t be the case this time.

New NBA commissioner Adam Silver took action last Tuesday, banning Sterling from participating in any league activity for life and fining him $2.5 million, the harshest penalty ever levied on any owner in professional sports.

As of last season, 81 percent of players in the NBA were people of color, and over three-quarters were Black. Over 43 percent of coaches were Black, too. That a person who harbors such obvious hatred for people of color has been allowed to own a team in a league like the NBA for over 30 years is troubling to say the least.

There is never a good time for comments like the ones Sterling made, but they certainly couldn’t have come during a worse part of the season. The Clippers are currently battling the Golden State Warriors in the opening round of the playoffs, and had jumped out to a 2–1 series lead before news of Sterling’s comments broke. In its subsequent game, the team suffered a 21 point loss. Players and Head Coach Doc Rivers do not blame the distraction for the team’s loss, but I find that hard to believe. Would you really want to play your hardest if you knew winning meant benefiting a man who has no respect for you?

Sadly, even after Sterling’s ban, we haven’t heard the last of this story. Rivers has expressed doubts about whether he’ll return to the team next season, and we will continue to see the Clippers lose sponsorships from companies who don’t wish to be associated with such blatant racism.

“I don’t want to change the culture because I can’t,” Sterling told his girlfriend. As the owner of an NBA team playing in one of the biggest markets in America, he’s flat-out wrong. But Sterling’s chance to use his power and wealth for the greater good is over. Like many rich assholes that came before him, Sterling can now sit in his mega-mansions and consider the ramifications of his stupidity.

Sterling dug his own grave with his words. As President Obama said, “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk.”

In a situation like this, there are no winners. Now all we can hope for is that the NBA learns from this and becomes a better league for it.