Thursday, May 1, 2014

Blog 6: Donald Sterling

Sterling; Silver: Unpolished

Recently, Donald Sterling, the owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, was caught on tape making racist remarks. His mistress girlfriend (Sterling and his wife are long separated, not divorced) posted a picture to her Instagram account of her at a Clippers game with Magic Johnson. Johnson, a former NBA star famous for an abundance of things, is black. Here is where the trouble starts. 

In the tape, Sterling asks his girlfriend to "not bring blacks to my games. Don't take pictures with them and put them online. Do you have to be affiliated with them?" The tape continues in a similar manner with Sterling making it incredibly apparent that he is unhappy that his public girlfriend affiliates herself with people of color. Here's the kicker, the woman in this situation is HALF BLACK, HALF MEXICAN. Yeah, no Caucasian or "white" in her at all. Pot, meet kettle. 

In light of these events, the recently appointed new NBA commissioner Adam Silver was faced with his first major decision. How does the NBA handle this situation? If you do nothing, it gives the impression that you simply don't care about what was said, or worse that you as a league SUPPORT what was said. Being that the NBA is a majority black league, this cannot happen. 

On the other hand, if you as the NBA commissioner for Sterling out of ownership, you open a can of worms that needs be avoided. This route sets a precedent where anything anyone in the league has said, publicly or privately, is up for debate and able to come under scrutiny. So now, if an owner of one of the most valuable franchises in the sport can be forced out, nobody is safe. 

So what do you do?

Silver, in a bold statement of power and authority, banned Donald Sterling for life from all NBA activities. Can of worms: opened blown up. On top of the lifetime ban, sterling was fined $2.5 million - the maximum amount that can be fined per the NBA constitution. Admittedly, this is a drop in the bucket for someone with Sterling's wealth, but it was a necessity with whatever the punishment ended up being. Sterling was also strongly advised to sell the franchise. Valued at roughly $550 million, buyers - including people such as Oprah Winfrey and Floyd Mayweather - are already lining up at the chance to own this team, and the bidding war, if it happens, is expected to rise above $1billion. 

The majority of the country has praised Silver's actions. But a few analysts and fans have spotted the new issue: the precedent has been set, presuming the NBA governors (the owners in the NBA) get a 3/4 vote (expected to be unanimous 29-0), Sterling will be forced to sell. This means anyone can be forced out; nobody is safe. 

It is also interesting to note the absolute uproar that arose from these statements. While what I say next may ruffle some feathers, it's not untrue. This type of incident can't still cause problems. The guy is 80 years old, grew up in a time where segregation was still a thing, and was, in good likelihood, raised by racist parents. People are surprised by this? People are genuinely surprised he said something like this? Naturally, the man has a strong set of views deeply engrained in his mindset and thought process. It is true that racism needs to be vanquished, but it is an ongoing process, it cannot be done with just one foul sweep.

Sterling has practically lived in court throughout the majority of his adult life, so an appeal or lawsuit is very much expected to happen. This will prolong the process into a saga rather than an incident. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the future. 

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