Donald Sterling has agreed to allow his wife, Shelly, to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, which they have owned since 1981 according to an ESPN report.
It is impossible for me to feel sorry for a racist billionaire. However, I do feel sorry for America and the NBA if they think the ouster of a disgraced Clippers owner is progress in the fight against racism in America.
When I first heard the ten minute audio remarks that landed Sterling in hot water, my first thought was he’s 80. Then I read old stories of Sterling’s other racist remarks from a decades old legal deposition. Now, I am more upset with everyone who knew of this old man’s dirt, which allowed Sterling to turn a $12 million investment into a $1.2 billion sale.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was not willing to take a stand against racism. By putting his $10 million salary on the line with a statement refusing to be commissioner of a league that covers up racism would have meant more to young fans. His drama filled press conference, where he issued a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine for an 80-year-old man who happens to be a billionaire, was laughable.
Commissioner Silver’s conference call where a 29 to 0 vote to proceed in getting rid of Sterling took place was a no brainer. I wonder if the commissioner asked the other 29 owners over the phone for raised hands, of those who knew of Sterling’s racist tendencies. He, being a lawyer, could legally say he saw no hands raised.
Sponsors of the Clipper games jumped off and back on so fast one might think a 4-year-old was merely playing with the light switch. As if stepping over and spilling popcorn on victims of racism just to get to their seats, addicted NBA fans continued to flock to the games. They showed no appreciation or respect for the professional sport that helped close many wombs opened up by racism.
The threat of not playing by the players was also embarrassing to me, a Black man, never mind the inside out jersey stunt. These so-called role models were merely bluffing like the wimpy loud mouth surrounded by his boys. They knew Silver would come down with the maximum punishment. Consider this fact: if NBA players had a moral turpitude clause against owners, no owner would be able to cash in on their racist acts to the tune of $1 billion.
I became a basketball fan in 1975 due to what I thought was a most unusual on-court fight. The underdog Golden State Warriors were playing the Washington Bullets for the NBA title. The Bullets were down three games to none in a best of 7 series. They had no way to stop Warrior forward Rick Barry, a White player so the Bullets went into conspiracy mode.
Game four: as the story was told years later the Bullets conspired to pick a fight with Barry in an attempt to get him kicked out of the game. Knowing Warrior coach Al Attles, a Black man would not stand for that, they still went on with their plan.
True to form, boom! The camera swung to Attles as if the cameraman knew what was about to take place. The six foot tall Black Warrior coach jumped out of his seat; ran onto the court and started swinging at much taller players. I thought, this is exciting and I was hooked.
The Warriors went on to win that game, series and of course the 1974-75 NBA championship with their coach in the locker room after being ejected from that game. Fast forward to today, I see an embarrassing fight about to take place off the court concerning the sale of the LA Clippers.
The NBA is smart enough to do their vetting. However, I fear that the NBA will fall into the trap of appeasement, like so many American corporations. They run at the very thought of being accused of being racist to protect their bottom line, while doing nothing to solve the problem of racism.
My first preference for new ownership would be a group led by Mary Poppins, Mother Teresa, Betty Crocker and Miss Manners. However, if still interested in owning an NBA team, I would hope that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, a White man, who was beat out in the sale of the Golden State Warriors would be allowed to purchase the team.
To allow this embarrassing saga to end by awarding the team to a minority led group of investors as proof that the “NBA Cares”, solves nothing.
Allen Jones is a prison reform activist living in San Francisco and author of Case Game-Activating the Activist. His autobiography of a black, crippled homosexual is in the San Francisco Public Library.