Sterling in Eye of the Storm

LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling (center) is at the center of a race firestorm.

sterlingThe NBA is now on trial.  The league is on a public trial to which any move it makes in race relations with its players and owners is going to rain down a horde of critique. This is a sad day for the sports world.
But it is a potential watershed moment for professional basketball players, coaches, trainers, general managers and video guys earning a paycheck in the NBA. Actually, it is high time for players in all sports to take a stand against racial insensitivity.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Philadelphia Eagles allowed wide receiver Riley Cooper to get away with disparaging African Americans by using the N-word that was caught on videotape. The NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers and their fans cannot afford to let team owner Donald Sterling to do the same if alleged racist remarks about Africans and minorities turns out to be authenticated as his voice.
Enough is enough.
Instead of talking about all of the shining moments of the 2014 NBA playoffs, today talk as turned to claims of bigotry, boycotts, protests, suspension…all of it aimed at Sterling for making alleged racist remarks against African Americans and minorities in a disheartening audio recording blasted virally by TMZ.
The whole world knows about these comments now. What is the NBA going to do? The world is watching. The President of the United States is watching. The entire sports community is watching.

The alleged remarks caught on audio tape has an unidentified man (alleged to be Sterling) telling a female who says that she is of black and Mexican descent , to hide her public affection for blacks and minorities in private after an alleged Instagram photo of her and Magic Johnson showed up, has created more than an uproar.
It has caused the sports community to be turned upside down. The troubling part in all of this is that Sterling’s team is comprised of mostly African Americans.
There are journalists, like myself, who are African American and/or a minority, who regularly cover Clippers games. We’ve never experienced this type of bigotry.
At least I haven’t. In fact, the Clippers have been incredibly welcoming and accommodating. This is what is so baffling. I heard the audio tape and it is filled with all types of racial stereotypes and bigoted comments about African Americans and other minorities.
If players can be fined or suspended for making inappropriate comments about race or gender, what standard do we hold for league owners and team brass if they cross the line?
This is not good. This is not the type of branding the NBA wants; to have its workers be merely seen by those who cut the paychecks as a bunch of field hands that they just throw money at and get away with demeaning them, their ethnicity and their culture.

I don’t think that is what any sports league wants. This is a different world than it was back in the 1940s and 50s. Whoever made those comments are still living in a time warp. It is that same mentality that allowed slave masters who were beholden in the day to their wives, but yet found their way in the slave quarters in the midnight hour, holding  black women at their will and dictatorship power.
The Clippers, for their part, responded quickly to the growing controversy, with Andy Roeser, president of the L.A. Clippers, issuing this statement:
“We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered. We do know that the woman on the tape — who we believe released it to TMZ — is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Sterling family alleging that she embezzled more than $1.8 million, who told Mr. Sterling that she would “get even.”  Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings.
It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them.  He is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson. He has long considered Magic a friend and has only the utmost respect and admiration for him–both in terms of who he is and what he has achieved. We are investigating this matter.”

Let’s hope for Sterling and the Clippers’ sake, this does not turn out to be true. Just when the team was making inroads to NBA elite status and stable functionality as a ballclub that could be respected around the league, comes this latest bombshell. If it is true, it would be all bad. So far, the alleged remarks have been met with rebuke, consternation, disgust and a whole lot of anger.
 Just go on Twitter to see what is being said. Magic Johnson, a basketball icon, Hall of Famer and business mogul, has said that he will never attend another LA Clippers game as long as Sterling is the owner. Reigning league MVP LeBron James wants Sterling to be gone from the NBA.
I think we should all step back and allow due process to take place and see whether or not if that is Sterling making those comments. Mr. Sterling has a right to be treated fairly like anyone else. So before we judge, before condemn, we should wait for the facts to play out.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1182 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.