Hysteria Builds Over Donald Sterling's Racist Remarks
I actually thought we reached the apex of high dudgeon yesterday when players for the Los Angeles Clippers turned their jerseys inside out during warmups:
In response to Sterling's purported comments urging a woman to not bring black people to his team's games, the Clippers on Sunday let their uniforms become a show of solidarity.
They ran out of the tunnel for Game 4 of their first-round playoff at Golden State wearing their warmups. Then they huddled at center court and tossed their warmups to the ground, going through their pregame routine with their red Clippers' shirts inside out to hide the team's logo.
Players also wore black wristbands or armbands. They all wore black socks with their normal jerseys.
But the outrage floodgates really opened on Monday.
Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, whose team is opposing the Clippers in the playoff series, urged Clippers fans to boycott game 5. "If it was me, I wouldn't come to the game," Jackson. "I believe as fans, the loudest statement they could make as far as fans is to not show up to the game."
Pardon my cynicism, but that's easy for him to say. Taking away home-court advantage would give the Warriors the upper hand in a tight series. Of course Jackson, who is black, is no doubt sincerely outraged by Sterling's comments. If that's the case, why is he going to coach? If he's outraged enough to urge opposing fans to stay home, he should be outraged enough to make a statement by not showing up himself.
And that wasn't the only silliness to rear its head today. Sponsors have also suddenly discovered Mr. Sterling has a racist world view and are pulling out:
The Chumash Casino, the presenting sponsor of the Los Angeles Clippers, jumped ship Monday along with used car dealership chain CarMax and airline Virgin America as advertisers pondered their partnerships with the team in the wake of racist remarks allegedly made by owner Donald Sterling.
State Farm, Kia Motors America, Red Bull, Lumber Liquidators and Sprint have condemned the remarks and said they will suspend their sponsorship and advertising obligations, closely monitor the situation and assess their options
Where were all these fine, upstanding companies a few years ago when it came out that Sterling was keeping blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities from renting his properties based solely on the color of their skin?
- 2006: U.S. Dept. of Justice sued Sterling for housing discrimination. Allegedly, he said, “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
- 2009: He reportedly paid $2.73 million in a Justice Dept. suit alleging he discriminated against blacks, Hispanics, and families with children in his rentals. (He also had to pay an additional nearly $5 million in attorneys fees and costs due to his counsel’s “sometimes outrageous conduct.”)
- 2009: Clippers executive (and one of the greatest NBA players in history) sued for employment discrimination based on age and race.
Sterling is a despicable human being -- a lowlife slumlord who discriminates against people of color. He's been sued three times by the government for violating the law and now people are shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that Mr. Sterling is a Kloset Kluxer.
Hall of Fame basketball player Kareem Abdul Jabbar, a soft-spoken, courtly gentleman and one of the best who ever laced them up, penned a common sense op-ed for Time:
What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise. Now there’s all this dramatic and very public rending of clothing about whether they should keep their expensive Clippers season tickets. Really? All this other stuff I listed above has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun?
He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing. It was public record. We did nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?
Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it.
Make no mistake: Donald Sterling is the villain of this story. But he’s just a handmaiden to the bigger evil. In our quest for social justice, we shouldn’t lose sight that racism is the true enemy. He’s just another jerk with more money than brains.
So, if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on Celebrity Apprentice and Dancing with the Stars.
Another slam dunk for Kareem.
The extraordinary back and forth about whether Sterling is a Democrat or a Republican is another sideshow that detracts from the real issue. At stake: Who gets to wear the racist dunce cap? Democrats or Republicans?
As mentioned previously, Sterling has donated to numerous liberal causes but is apparently a "registered" Republican in California. Is it news that a registered Republican was going to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP until his racist remarks became public? No, but it's news that the NAACP was going to honor a man sued three times by the Feds for discriminating against the very people the NAACP claims to protect.
Or it would be news if the media was of a mind to give the NAACP a black eye -- so to speak.
We better face it: The path to power and riches in America lies in promoting that which divides us at the expense of working for what unites us. There is nothing wrong with calling the Cliven Bundys, the Donald Sterlings, the Louis Farrakhans, and the Al Sharptons to account for their hateful speech. It is how we learn and grow as a country.
But what good is it if the lesson being taught is not meant to unite us in a shared vision of tolerance and racial harmony, but rather becomes part of the endless effort to divide us by race, by class, by sex, by sexual preference -- cleaving the body politic to gain wealth, power, position, and advantage?
It's killing us. And it has to stop.