Here we go again talking about sports. The past few days the sports world has been abuzz because of comments made by the LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling. For those who don’t know what happened, here’s a very quick summary. Several months ago Sterling was talking to a woman that he knows, and he said that he didn’t appreciate the fact that she posted pictures of herself with Magic Johnson. Sterlings exact words from the recording were as follows: “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” (From the ESPN article found here.) As a result of his comment getting out, Sterling was banned from all NBA related activities, find $2.5 million, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that he plans to ask the other NBA team owners to vote to make Sterling sell the Clippers.
Now, from my understanding, this comment was made in Sterling’s home, and a recording was released several months later. Per Wikipedia, Sterling was suing the woman who released the recording, and she said that she would “get even” with him.
Lets do something that not many other people seem to be doing, and take a look at exactly what he said. It bothers him that someone he knows is associating with black people. Not a nice thing to say, but I’m sure you could find far more racially offensive articles from the past week, like this article talking about a fan throwing a banana at a soccer player in Spain. That’s far more offensive to me, but apparently not to the public at large, in part because it’s from Europe, and in part because it’s soccer, a sport most American’s don’t care about.
Let’s take a look at Sterling while we’re at it, according to Wikipedia, Sterling is 80 years old. This isn’t excusing what he said, but it does lend some context. We’re a far more integrated society today than we were when Sterling was growing up. When he was younger, interracial relationships were more rare, and it’s understandable that they might make him uncomfortable.
Secondly, he said he wasn’t comfortable with the girl associating with “black people.” There are plenty of other more offensive racial terms that he could have used instead of “black people.”
Lastly, lets look at the punishment. He’s being find $2.5 million, again we go to Wikipedia, which says that his net worth is something like $1.9 billion. So yeah, it’s a big fine, but it’s not exactly going to send him to the poor house. Next, he’s banned from anything to do with the NBA, including attending games or even attending a practice, I think this is going a bit too far. He’s already a fairly quiet owner by comparison to others (Mark Cuban of Dallas comes to mind), and while he hasn’t done a great job of running a winning team over the years, I don’t think there were ever any stories about him not paying players, or refusing to sign black players, so as far as that’s concerned he’s done his job more than adequately.
And now we get to the most damning part, at least as far as I’m concerned. Silver is going to try and get the rest of the NBA owners to vote in an attempt to force Sterling to sell the team. He’s the longest tenured owner in the league, and over the time that he’s owned the team the NBA has grown astronomically larger and more popular. I don’t know exactly how much, but he’s probably had something to do with that behind the scenes. I think this sets a bad precedent for the other owners. This is a very, very, small thing, and they’re trying to force him to sell the team. What happens in a couple of years when the aforementioned Mark Cuban says something to offend someone, is he going to be forced by the other owners to sell the team? What happens the next time a coach questions a league decision? Will the commissioner put pressure on the team to fire the coach? What about when it’s found that a player told a joke with the N word in it when he was a freshman in high school? Is he going to be suspended?
This whole controversy boils down to two things. One, we’ve somehow managed to sterilize our culture to the point where having an opinion that differs from the “politically correct views” in any way shape or form means that anyone who might possibly have been offended any time in the past 50 years has every right to crucify you for what you said. And two, Adam Silver is brand new as a commissioner in the NBA, and he wanted to do everything he could to make sure that people realize that he is the commissioner and he has the power.
Is Sterling a perfect person, no, he isn’t. But I doubt that he’s anywhere near as bad as he’s been made to seem. We’ve all vented about things from time to time, and we’ve all said things that are politically incorrect. If you took a soundbite of the worst things we’ve said in our private moments, nobody would have a job. In the past week, I’ve heard plenty of things that are far worse than what Sterling said. Quite frankly, I’ve said more offensive things than what Sterling said in the past week. This is a stupid situation that got absurdly out of hand. If I was Donald Sterling, I’d fight this every step of the way, sit court side at the next Clippers home game, and tell Adam Silver to take his lifetime ban and shove it up his ass.
But that wouldn’t be politically correct would it?