Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What took us so long to boot Donald Sterlings out of the NBA?

The players should have boycotted.  We shouldn’t be surprised because most of the owners are racist.  Why was she recording him in the first place?  Why was she with a man that old, and isn’t he married?

These are some of the comments made after the world was exposed to the bigotry of Donald Sterling.  It is true that his disdain for black people was documented long before he was caught doing what most bigots fear – having one of those closed door conversations recorded.  Someone should have told him what you do in the dark will come to the light.

Elgin Baylor, who served as the Clippers executive vice president and general manager from 1996 -2008, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Sterling in 2009, claiming he was underpaid and “treated as a token because of his race”.

By now, most people know that Sterling settled a lawsuit in 2006 filed by the U.S. Justice Department.  The lawsuit accused Sterling's rental company of refusing to lease Beverly Hills apartments to blacks and Latinos in his properties in Koreatown.  After settling the case, Sterling continued to deny the charges. $2.75 million is a load of money when you are innocent. You feel me on that one?

Some folks never learn from their mistakes.  Before forking up close to $3 million, Sterling settled a lawsuit in 2003. The lawsuit was filed by the nonprofit Housing Rights Center and a group of tenants who lived in Sterling's properties.  The lawsuit accused Sterling of "numerous discriminatory statements and housing practices," according to court documents.  The terms of the settlement were never disclosed.

So, we know Sterling’s position related to hanging out with black people and other minorities. That is what he said on the tape. Remember, I don’t want black people in my house. His racism is no secret, and it has never been.  What people are asking, after he was caught saying what people already knew, is why nothing was done before now?

Despite the multiple lawsuits filed against Sterling, the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP honored him for his work in giving tickets to inner city youth in 2009.  The group was set to hand Sterling the Lifetime Achievement Award on May 15. 

How did that happen?

There is a long list of questions.  Like, how can a woman who is black and Mexican date a known racist?  How can players, aware of his racist ways, sign to play there?  How can a black coach agree to coach his team?  How does his wife deal with his sickening ways?  Why would a woman who looks like that pick a man who looks like that? Well, we know the answer to the last one.

Needing to get paid aside, where’s the courage?  Where’s the righteous indignation preceding all of this becoming public?  Why didn’t the NBA do something?  Why, why…?

But wait just a minute.  Isn’t the blood on all of our hands?  Isn’t this a gaudy reminder of how over the top wealth can be used to get people to turn their heads to things that disgust them the most?  Was it the billionaire at the end of Sterling’s name that blinded the vision of the NAACP, the players, owners, coaches, girlfriend, wife and fans?

Aren’t we all guilty of allowing money to keep us silent when bigotry shows up?  Why did black fans continue to buy tickets from a team owned by a man caught more than once with his bigotry dangling on his sleeves? 

Maybe it’s about our willingness to put our love for the game above principles.  How else can you explain those who continue to root for the Washington Redskins when the owner has clearly stated he doesn’t care about what Native Americans think?  I suppose it’s cool, in the minds of some, as long as it’s redskin and not blackskin.

Yes, there are numerous questions that beg answers. Like, how long should we wait to forget the past?  Can I forget the roles that BMW and Mercedes Benz played in bankrolling Nazi Germany?  At what point does one forgive and forget, and at what cost? Besides, isn’t it all old news?  Call me an elephant, because I don’t forget that easy.

There’s more.  Do we disregard the sexism and misogyny of those with enough money to make it appear as the games of rich men?  Should we overlook the assumption that women serve the purpose of satisfying men with power and money?  Can I avoid the thought that Sterling is mimicking some old school pimp moves by assuming he owns his women just like he owns the players on his team?  That’s a serious plantation move.

Yes, I’m guilty of hating both the player and the game.

But, tell me, are these the benefits of having enough money to make it look like something different  – the benefits of billionaire status – while holding others to a different expectation?

So, who’s to blame for what just happened? 

Maybe, just maybe, it’s the consequence of living within a culture that gives people with money a do not go to jail pass for refusing to live by the rules others take for granted.

If so, we need another set of rules.

Adam Silver did just that on Tuesday.  It doesn’t matter how much money you have player. You can’t play here anymore.