Having followed the Lakers for much of my life, I plead guilty to jumping on the bandwagon, but I had pretty much switched my allegiances from the purple and gold to the Clippers these past two years due to that red, white and blue squad being the better team in L.A.
Indeed, I declared in an earlier article on this site that the Clippers – who have one of the best coaches (Doc Rivers), the best point guard (Chris Paul), and arguably the best power forward (Blake Griffin) in the NBA – had taken over the nation’s second largest city, that Los Angeles is now a Clipper town.
I was even planning to buy a Clipper jersey; probably Griffin’s number 32.
As of April 26, all of that not only went out the proverbial window, but crashed and burned when I heard that tape of Clipper owner Donald Sterling reportedly airing his bigoted views on African Americans to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, regarding his not being happy about her taking an Instagram picture with Magic Johnson and his not wanting blacks to come to Clippers games at Staples Center.
Millions of folks, fans and otherwise, are understandably shocked, as was I at the onset.
People ranging from Johnson, who stated that he won’t ever go to Clipper games as long as Sterling’s the owner, to Lebron James, to Michael Jordan, to rapper Snoop Dogg, have loudly voiced their displeasure.
The NAACP, who incredibly gave Sterling a lifetime achievement award in 2009, is reversing their plans to give him another achievement award.
The Clippers have lost sponsors.
The team, in an expected statement, turned their warm-up jerseys inside out and wore black socks and armbands during their playoff game against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, which they not surprisingly lost as it was nearly impossible for them to not be affected by the obvious distraction.
That shock quickly ceased, however, when I thought about it.
Considering that Sterling has had a long history of animosity towards people of color, having been sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for housing discrimination in 2006 when it was charged that the real estate mogul was refusing to rent to blacks, Latinos, and families with children at his apartment buildings, in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles, what is happening here is not surprising to me.
The fact that NBA Hall of Famer and Lakers legend Elgin Baylor, who was Sterling’s first general manager when he moved the Clippers from San Diego to L.A. in 1984, filed a wrongful termination suit, claiming that Sterling had a “planation mentality” regarding his team and that he once told Baylor that he “…would like to have a white Southern coach coaching black players,” was certainly evidence of the man’s bigotry.
That lawsuit was dismissed, but it didn’t exonerate Sterling in the court of public opinion, particularly in the black community.
I’ll go on a limb by stating that the only thing that Sterling REALLY did that other racists did not do was have his anti-African American views and desires taped and aired for the world to hear; to get caught doing such.
Sterling’s representatives have stated that he is not a racist and that what was said on the tape is not an indication of the kind of person he is, which isn’t surprising as most bigots – except for people in hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan – deny their racism.
Going forward, I join everyone else in advocating that the NBA – who is investigating – deal the Clippers’ owner the most severe punishment possible.
In an ideal world, Sterling would be made to do what Major League Baseball did to former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott when it was found that she made racist remarks, including slurs, about her players – sell the Clippers, essentially kicking him out of the NBA.
Along with everyone else, I would LOVE to see that happen.
But most unfortunately, it’s not that simple as unlike MLB, the NBA’s by-laws don’t have a provision where they can force an owner to sell.
Which means that anything the league does to that effect would be met with lawsuits that would tie things up for years.
Meanwhile, every day that Sterling remains the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers hurts that team and the league, much like the iceberg that sank the Titanic.
Paul, Griffin, and the other players will bail from that club the moment their contracts run out, if not actively seek a trade or a opt-out at the end of this season, and free agents will run from that team screaming.
And of course attendance will fall to the levels of a high school basketball game, which means that revenues would take a wicked hit.
That’s why the bare minimum punishment for Sterling needs to be thus:
1. A FINE IN THE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS, IF NOT IN THE BILLIONS; LARGE ENOUGH SO THAT IT WOULD SIGNIFICANTLY HURT HIS WEALTH, and…
2. A SUSPENSION OF AT LEAST THREE YEARS, PREFERABLY MORE, IN WHICH HE COULD NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE TEAM WHATSOEVER.
As the NBA is 75 to 80% African American, I have no doubt that assuming that the investigation goes the way I think it will go, new commissioner Adam Silver will do the right thing.
Silver will send the strongest anti-racism message ever and deal with Sterling severely, giving him the most significant punishment that any sports owner will be given.
He has no choice, otherwise his league will suffer greatly.
I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming developments.
In other words, stay tuned.