Racism is a blight on the nation in any form. It is also, evidently, a blight on intelligence. When the owner of the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers goes off on a racist rant about African-Americans and the propriety of his mixed-race girlfriend posting images of herself with African-Americans on Instagram, some circuitry has broken. Or perhaps was never built.
Regardless, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver responded correctly and forcefully in banning Donald Sterling for life and imposing a $2.5 million fine, the maximum allowed by the league’s bylaws. In addition, he urged the league’s team owners to force Sterling to sell the team. That will require a three-quarters majority of the owners.
How likely that is to occur is unknown – Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has already expressed hesitation about “making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do.” But it’s the right course and if the 80-year-old Sterling has any sense – again, unknown – he’ll voluntarily sell the team rather than force the owners to act.
It is possible to feel some fleeting moment of sympathy for Sterling. He was engaged in what he evidently thought was a private conversation with a woman who goes by the name V. Stiviano. A recording of their painful discussion quickly made its way onto the Internet.
Still, it was a loathsome conversation. Sterling, egged on by his companion, berated her for posting photos of herself with African-Americans, including former NBA star Magic Johnson. He insisted he likes black people, but that their place isn’t publicly sharing company with white people, and especially not white people who are close to him. Listening to the audio, he plainly and passionately believes what he is saying and doesn’t understand why his partner doesn’t get it. Such is racism.
Racism, or perhaps just stupidity, is also the inability to see that as an owner in a league whose players are overwhelmingly African-American, he has not just a moral responsibility to treat all people respectfully, but an economic one. If he couldn’t clear even that low bar, he had no business owning an NBA team.
The repercussions of Sterling’s foul comments are still shaking the league. The Clippers are in a playoff series with the Golden State Warriors, whose coach, Mark Jackson, called for fans to boycott Tuesday’s fifth game. Players are making their disgust known by practicing with their shirts inside out. Others have worn black socks in protest.
There are more shoes to fall in this matter and, when it does end, and when the moocher Cliven Bundy is no longer in the news, there will be someone else proudly proclaiming his bigotry. However much things may have changed over the decades, racial prejudice is plainly and obviously alive in America.