"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

We Interrupt These Playoffs…


Over at Grantland, Charlie Pierce weighs in on the many problems with Donald Sterling:

But there is one problem that never can be solved. This is because what is a problem for you might not be a problem for the good old boy network of plutocrats that actually own the games into which you pour your devotion and your money. And, even if you decide to stop spending the latter to satisfy the former, it may not really matter. The odds are that, through the largesse of television and the legerdemain of modern accounting, you can’t solve it that way, either. There never has been anything you can do about a bad owner. That one is out of your hands.

Which is where we find ourselves today in the case of Donald Sterling, the alleged racist slumlord owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, who was an alleged racist slumlord, and a confirmed terrible owner, for three decades before audio surfaced of a conversation that was reportedly between him and a woman named V. Stiviano, who appears to have James O’Keefe’d him. (Is there more? Of course there is.)

The league is investigating the audio, but by now, half the world has already weighed in, including the coach of his team, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, LeBron James, and the president of the United States. All of them agree — as does any advanced carbon-based life form — that if the recording is authentic, the comments show that Sterling is undeniably racist, undeniably revolting, and undeniably rooted in the mind of a man who would have to yield his moral pride of place to algae. There have been a number of calls for the league to strip Sterling of his franchise. This, I confess, makes me more than a little nervous. Taking someone’s assets because of what they think and say, no matter how grotesque it is, sets off all kinds of alarm bells in my First Amendment conscience. The league certainly is within its rights to suspend him, for as long as it wants to suspend him. There were also calls for the Clippers players to make some kind of public statement. Before Sunday’s Game 4 against the Golden State Warriors, they did just that, when they removed their shooting shirts at center court and turned their red warm-ups inside out.


1 ms october   ~  Apr 28, 2014 10:20 am

so many layers to this one.

good moment for the players to have some leverage as the balance of power has been out of control toward the owners' from quite some time.
much harder for people to ignore or accept extreme racism when it is downloaded all over the place. because his other words and actions have been even worse.

sports owners are basically plutocrats operating in a monopoly.
so if he is forced in some way to sell it will be a really interesting turn. which will be made even more interesting if magic and his group buy.

2 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Apr 28, 2014 12:38 pm

Let's not forget Merge Schott. MLB suspended her and then forced a sale by her as I recall.

3 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Apr 28, 2014 12:38 pm


4 rbj   ~  Apr 28, 2014 1:12 pm

"Taking someone’s assets because of what they think and say, no matter how grotesque it is, sets off all kinds of alarm bells in my First Amendment conscience."

There are First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment issues here. Donald Sterling is not going to be fined by the government for his speech, nor thrown in jail. And you can't take away his franchise, but depending on the NBA Constitution and various franchise contract language, he could be forced to sell.

Or else create a 31st franchise, the CA Slippers and schedule games against them and "forget" to schedule the Clippers. Void all the current Clipper contracts and have them sign with the Slippers.

5 Chris   ~  Apr 28, 2014 1:37 pm

I'm assuming you meant that there are NO First Amendment issues here. That's correct legally because the government is not involved here.

As was pointed out, the NBA can take action against Sterling as allowed in its governing documents. And they should have this right. The league, as a business, has a strong interest in stopping actions by its owners and players that adversely reflect its business reputation. This definitely fits that definition.

The most interesting thing about this whole situation to me, however, is not the legal aspects. It's how someone can say what Sterling said and in the next sentence say, "I'm not racist." He seems to really believe that because, say, he employs black people he is not racist. And that simply saying he does not want to associate with black people does not mean that he might discriminate against them. The human mind does not work this way. Donald Sterling is a racist. And Denial aint just a river in Egypt.

The other thing I'd like to add is that I admire the Clippers' players (I think). Had I heard that before the game last night, I'm pretty sure I would not have taken the court regardless of the consequences.

6 RagingTartabull   ~  Apr 28, 2014 1:58 pm

Schott was suspended but I don't believe she was ever forced to sell controlling interest in the team by MLB. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marge_Schott#Exit_from_ownership

The NBA has to take some responsibility here, they were his enablers for 30 years and looked the other way during embarrassment after embarrassment. They created this *thing*, and then REWARDED him with one of the best players in the game! David Stern is chilling on a beach right now and won't have to answer a single question about why he allowed this to fester for decades. That's just great.

7 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 28, 2014 3:20 pm

Good take by Tim Marchman:

When athletes talk about sports as a plantation, this is what they mean. That a player makes millions doesn't make it any less true that he's making a fraction of what he's worth, or that he's being essentially stolen from by a system designed to divert wealth from those who create it to those who already have it, and it doesn't make it any less galling to realize that this wealth is going to people who don't even realize that they represent nothing more than a tax levied on useful, productive members of society.

The shame of this is that Sterling has made it so easy to write him off as uniquely pathological, and so made himself useful even on the way out. He'll go soon—NBA owners will decide that he's too damaging to their brand, or his heart will give out, or whatever—and this whole ugly incident will be profitably portrayed as the dying gasp of an old league and an old way of thinking. Whichever financial engineer or technologist replaces him will be no different in the essentials, but much better about keeping up appearances. He'll know that it's good not to be too honest, that the best thing to do with stolen money is to quietly enjoy it, and that the best thing about the question of who makes the game is that if you're on the right side of it, you don't even really have to ask.


8 Chris   ~  Apr 28, 2014 3:33 pm

I guess I would agree with Marchman's description of the economics of sport but it's pretty much impossible for me to care when the rest of us have it the same, if not worse, only we don't make 7 figures. Real wages haven't increased in this country in over 30 years. If you're a pro athlete, you're in the One Percent of income, even if not total wealth. We have far more pressing problems as a society and to the extent this is a real problem it can be addressed with the more comprehensive economic reform that we all need anyway.

As far as Sterling being seen as "uniquely pathological," that also seems correct. I am hopeful because in the Millennial Generation I see folks who are far less racist, sexist, and generally fascist than in Sterling's age group. I think the prevalence of his beliefs is far lower among the next generation of people, and by extension, NBA owners. Maybe I'm being too optimistic. But people like Sterling can't die fast enough as far as I'm concerned.

10 RagingTartabull   ~  Apr 28, 2014 4:34 pm
11 rbj   ~  Apr 28, 2014 5:19 pm

Would be great to see Magic buy the team.

12 MSM35   ~  Apr 28, 2014 8:58 pm

I am confused about the point Marchman is trying to make. Playing a game for money is only worth as much as people are willing to pay to see you do it. Playing in the park is the same game but no one pays so you have to go to work the next day. Sterling may be a dirt-bag but no one is owed a living playing a sport. If just one of these players refused to play and turned down the money I would respect them much more.

13 Boatzilla   ~  Apr 29, 2014 1:42 am

There's an article by Micheal Powell in the International NY Times, and he suggests the players should have sat. Turning their jerseys around was weak.

Refusing to play would force the NBA's hand. When/if they disqualify the Clippers, then the NBA becomes the racist enabling organization.

Sitting for a cause would have been better than that professional ass-kicking they got anyway.

There was a somewhat similar case in the J-League, Japan's professional soccer league, although it was racist fans. It got a lot of coverage out here. Some fan brought a huge banner to the Urawa Reds game that said, in English, "Japanese Only." The J-league's response? They made the Reds play their next home game in an empty stadium. It was weird. Then in the next home game lots of fans brought "Stop Racism" banners.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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