What type of racist do you prefer, one whose views about you are clearly known and stated loudly? Or perhaps you prefer your racists to keep their true thoughts of hate towards you secretly cloaked behind smiles and firm hand shakes? Recently Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers made it abundantly clear (again) how he felt about Black people in response to an Instagram photo posted by his girlfriend. The photo was of she and NBA legend/business mogul Earvin Magic Johnson.
On the as yet unverified conversation with girlfriend, V. Stiviano, Sterling allegedly stated: “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?...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 him to my games.” This was only one in a litany of gross, hurtful and deliberately racist remarks apparently made by Sterling to a woman who is herself Black and Latina. By the way, if Magic Johnson is not an acceptable Black man to befriend, who is?
Sterling’s rant continues on with all the narcissism of a wealthy bigot. When Stiviano points out the obvious, that most of his team is Black, he explains why he can’t be racist. “I support them and give them food, and clothes and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them?” It is clear that he completely minimizes the contributions of these men, to whom he GAVE nothing; men, Black men who work and train year round to contribute to his wealth.
What’s most troubling is that Sterling has a long history as an unapologetic racist. Is it coincidental that a racist billionaire made most of his wealth on the muscles and sweat of mostly Black men? Is it ironic that in 2009, Elgin Baylor (Clippers GM 1986-2008) filed a wrongful termination and discrimination suit against the Clippers organization? In his testimony Baylor indicated that Sterling envisioned the Clippers with “a southern plantation-type structure”, one “composed of ‘poor black boys from the South’ and a white head coach.” “Everyone seemed to want to speak to the former Clippers general manager after the racist recording attributed to the team’s owner, Donald Sterling, emerged.”
In 2003 a lawsuit for housing discrimination was brought against Sterling who is also a Southern California real estate mogul. He is the largest landowner in the City of Beverly Hills. Depositions from the lawsuits, filed by 19 tenants and the federal Housing Rights Center documented Sterling’s racist ideologies and practices against Blacks, Latinos and Koreans. Testimony from tenants said that Sterling’s property managers, “…refused rent checks, then accused renters of nonpayment…refused to do repairs for Black tenants and harassed them with surprise inspections, threatening residents with eviction for alleged violations of building rules.”
In this same deposition, one of his top property managers testified that Sterling blamed Blacks for the odor of one of his newly acquired properties: “they smell, (and) they’re not clean” he stated. The good news- Sterling is an equal opportunity racist, he was sure to highlight the other minorities responsible for the odor in the building, stating, "…it's (also) because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day." He apparently capped these statements off by saying “So we have to get them out of here”.
The near $3 million dollar settlement in 2009 did not include the $5 million in legal fees Sterling paid to the former tenants. Forbes lists Sterling’s net worth at $1.9 Billion, they identify him as number 977 of all the “World’s Billionaires”. With this type of financial power, has he purchased the American right to be an open racist? This is not the first time that Sterling has expressed unambiguously racist ideologies without consequence. Will it be the last, or will this organization continue to silently condone the behaviors of a wealthy racist?
While vetting potential Clipper coaches in the 1980s, Sterling met with rising star Rollie Massimino. Massimino says that at the end of their meeting, a drunken Sterling asked him “I wanna know why you think you can coach these niggers”. In 1988, during contract negotiations for Danny Manning, Sterling reportedly stated “I’m offering a lot of money for a poor Black kid”. This statement was allegedly made in the presence of David Stern, NBA Commissioner at that time. Players have even allegedly complained that Sterling routinely brought women into the locker room while they were showering saying “Look at those beautiful Black bodies” reminiscent of the old confederate slave auction blocks.
Now with all that, picture this---Rev Al Sharpton and Donald Sterling on the same stage being honored by the NAACP. Sounds crazy right? Well this was to be the case in Los Angeles on May 15, 2014 as the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP celebrated their 100th Anniversary. This would be the second Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed on Sterling by this noted civil rights organization. This is one of their most critical awards and it has been twice granted to this blatant racist. This seems antithetical to anything that the NAACP stands for, one could speculate why they were in bed with Sterling but we won’t. The NAACP has rescinded their offer for this years award, only after this most recent infraction.
The NBA regularly fines players millions of dollars each year for inappropriate Tweets, radio interviews, cursing, dress code etc. Now that Sterling’s true feelings have been again illustrated, what will his consequence be? Will the NBA stand up for Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, Chris Paul (Clippers star and current President of the NBA Players Association) and the rest of the team? Will Sterling be heavily fined? Will Sterling be forced to sell the team (to Magic Johnson)? Just because one donates a bunch of nose bleed ball game seats at the Staples Center to under privileged kids every year doesn’t grant you consistent racist passes.
Dr. Donald E Grant Jr: Mental Health Expert and Socio-Cultural Analyst. Follow him on Twitter @DrGrantJr