One day before the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors tip off for Game 4, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver faces the first major crisis of his tenure as league commissioner: TMZ has obtained a recording of Clippers owner Donald Sterling essentially telling his girlfriend to not bring black people to his games or broadcast any association with them. These kind of racist comments should surprise approximately no one given his reputation and his history of making these sort of insensitive and inhumane comments, but this time the league should seriously consider suspending Sterling as owner.
In a conversation with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, you can hear Sterling arguing with her over a photo she posted on Instagram with Magic Johnson, a photo that has since been taken down. Here are just a few choice excerpts:
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that…and not bring them to my games.”
“Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring them to my games.”
.@cjbycookie and I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 26, 2014
This is all of our faults. We know who Sterling is and what he’s done in his time in the NBA. No one is surprised to hear him saying these things, yet we act as if this is some dramatic tipping point as we gather our torches and pitchforks. This Frankenstein monster has been happily chilling in his castle for years now, people. And we let him sit there, making his racist comments and committing these basic crimes against humanity. But late is better than never, and hopefully this latest atrocity will be the final nail in Sterling’s coffin.
The NBA is currently investigating these remarks, which are the latest of many transgressions Sterling has committed against minorities and humanity in general. In 2005, he paid a fine of $2.7 million to settle a claim from the Justice Department that Sterling was discriminatory against blacks, Hispanics and families with children in his rental practices. In 2009, Sterling was sued by Elgin Baylor, a former NBA legend and Clippers executive who joined the Los Angeles franchise in 1986.
In the lawsuit, Baylor alleged that Sterling had not only frozen his salary at an incredibly low $350,000 since 2003, but that Sterling had also told him he wanted to fill his team with “poor black boys from the South and a white head coach.” Later that year, the U.S. Justice Department sued Sterling for housing discrimination, alleging that he refused to rent to non-Koreans in the Koreatown neighborhood, refused to rent to African-Americans in Beverly Hills and that he did not like to rent to Hispanics because they “smoke, drink and just hang around the building” and that “black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
This is what institutional racism is. Sterling is that dude we KNOW about, and no one is willing or able to do anything.
— netw3rk (@netw3rk) April 26, 2014
Enough is enough. The only vermin in this entire situation is Donald Sterling himself, and it’s time for the NBA to exterminate his tenure as a league executive. This is a man who has made a great deal of his wealth off the effort of black players, NBA All-Stars and good all-around people like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Doc Rivers who currently have the Clippers on the verge of contending for a championship. That kind of mentality is not unlike the mindset of a slaveowner from the 1800s Not only is it reprehensible for this man to not understand that, but it’s even worse for anyone associated with the NBA in 2014 to be able to get away with this kind of racism, especially in a league that is predominantly made up of black players.
If this audio is authenticated, an indefinite suspension, or more, could be in order. This is horrible for the NBA’s image and reputation and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible This kind of habitual racism is unacceptable in this day and age, as is Sterling’s attitude that “you can work for me and make me money but I refuse to actually associate with you as a human being because of your race.”
LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s comments about African Americans are a black eye for the NBA.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 26, 2014
Can the NBA legally force Sterling out? That remains to be seen. For one thing, Sterling could sue the NBA for breach of franchise agreement in such a scenario. He could also sue other owners under antitrust law. Another important point is that according to California law, there must be two-way consent when recording conversations, which I’m about 99 percent sure TMZ did not have. But then again this is important to remember:
The NBA can still punish an owner for wrongful conduct based on evidence that is itself unlawful. Why? NBA isn’t a court. #DonaldSterling
— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) April 26, 2014
It’s sad that on the eve of Game 4, in the middle of one of the most exciting first rounds of the NBA Playoffs that we’ve seen in a long time, we’re dealing with this instead of sitting back and enjoying the games. And that’s probably the point when it comes to seriously considering removing Sterling as an owner: this kind of incident could set the NBA back years in terms of public support, reputation and in turn, ratings. No one wants to watch a league where one of 30 team owners is allowed to utter these kinds of reprehensible things that embody the spirit of slaveholders from the Civil War era. So as much as we’ve failed to let Frankenstein sit in his ivory tower for all this time, it’s good that we’re finally grabbing our torches and pitchforks for real. We can only hope Adam Silver is ready to lead the charge.