The owner of the Los Angeles Clippers is one of the most ugly human beings in America. Donald Sterling was caught on tape speaking about black people as if blacks are subhuman. It’s racist and extremely disturbing. The Clippers are scheduled to play against the Warrior this afternoon.
I see some parallels between Donald Sterling and Brendan Eich. The Eich controversy arose because in 2008 he supported a ban on same sex marriage. This is considered a bigoted position by many people in the United States. The Sterling controversy arose (again) because he is a huge racist and was caught on camera saying that he didn’t want his girlfriend to publicize her interactions with black people nor was she to invite black people to Clippers games.
Eich resigned after his support of Prop 8 (a CA state ban on same sex marriage) became a distraction to Mozilla. Board members resigned in protest and a large segment of the public was relentless in holding Eich and Mozilla accountable. The public, or at least a large segment of the public, demanded it.
Sterling’s racism is far worse than Eich’s disapproval of same sex marriage. It’s not even close. This incident is not an outlier or even surprising. At least a dozen disgusting Sterling comments spanning over 30 years have been publicized. It would be a shock if these were the only examples of his racism.
Making things worse, Sterling owns a team that employs 10 of the most gifted black athletes in the world. He is their boss. He signs their checks. They are playing for him. The people Sterling finds so disgusting are literally the same people he pays to play basketball. They are the same people who are lining his pockets with cash.
Fans sometimes feel like their favorite athletes play for them. In one sense that might be true, but the reality is that professional sports leagues are a business and the athletes are employees of their franchise owners. There are ten black basketball players who are actually working for this idiot. Whereas Eich was an employee of Mozilla who was paid to be the CEO of a corporation, Sterling is the owner of the Clippers. To me, this means that he and the Clippers are more intimately interconnected than Eich was to Mozilla. It also means that shunning the Clippers is a more direct blow to Sterling than banning Firefox was to Eich. Also, Eich was participating in the political process when he supported Prop 8. Sterling is just plain racist in every possible context. His words betray his feelings that blacks are not worthy of treatment as humans.
There is also a tendency for fans to imagine that the Clippers are Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, and their teammates. We sometime think that the players are the Clippers. But they are not the Clippers. They work for the Clippers. They are the basketball team unit of the Clippers. Donald Sterling is the Clippers. The players on the Clippers are hired guns who are here today and gone tomorrow. The Clippers are Donald Sterling. When the Clippers win, Donald Sterling wins. When we cheer for a Blake Griffin dunk, we are cheering for Donald Sterling. This is not how most fans think, but this is reality.
It works the other way too. Some athletes choose a team because they want to play for the owner of that team. Famously, Jerry Buss was a deciding factor in the decision of many free agents to sign with the Lakers. The players understand that the players on the team work for the owner. Their success is his success. They know that they are playing on behalf of the team owners.
I am confident that all the players on the Clippers are disgusted by Donald Sterling. The Clippers are scheduled to play a playoff game against the Golden State Warriors today. Meaning, Donald Sterling is paying athletes to play against the players being paid by the owner of the Warriors. Framed in this manner, I think it would be appropriate, noble even, for the Clippers players to refuse to work for Sterling until he steps down from his positions as Chairman of the Board and NBA Governor. Racist attitudes are always unacceptable and must be protested in every possible way.
Intolerance of intolerant people is not intolerance. There are varying degrees of socially acceptable behavior. While the country is split on gay marriage, the country overwhelmingly rejects racism. This makes Eich’s behavior far less abhorrent than Sterling’s behavior. There is just no room for people like Sterling in 2014 America. He can live a quiet life outside the public sphere, but society should not be publicly cheering for his company, even if they are a basketball team.
I believe that many blacks would never choose to work for a company with a clearcut racist at the helm. If a glaringly racist owned a local grocery, was a politician, a judge, or a mechanic, I doubt the people the racist regularly disparages would work for the racist. It may not seem like the same thing, but I think the NBA is no different. If Cliff Paul wouldn’t work at a State Farm branch where a KKK Grand Wizard was the boss, and I am sure he wouldn’t, why should Chris Paul work for someone who shares the Grand Wizards values on blacks (but not Jews, obviously)? In fact, Kobe Bryant, who has been accused of “not being black enough,” had this to say:
I couldn’t play for him
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 26, 2014
I would have so much respect for the Clippers players if they possess the cojones to do what Kobe says he would do. They should refuse to play for this man. Tell him, and the rest of the racists, that we won’t stand for it. Some things are more important than basketball. Making a public statement to help stamp out racism is much more important than basketball. It’s not honorable to play for him. It’s dishonorable. Sterling has already showed that he is a disgusting human being, take the high road. In this case, the high road is not the road that leads to Oracle Arena.
As much as I was embarrassed by the Firefox fiasco and the reaction to it, I think the circumstances here are different enough and severe enough that the men who are most directly connected to Donald ‘Racist’ Sterling should protest his comments and attitudes. Normally, I don’t look up to athletes as role models, nor do I expect them to make good moral choices. But this is a no-brainer. Unless racism doesn’t bother someone at all, Sterling’s statements were bad enough that they deserve much stronger condemnation than Eich received.
Make it happen Clips. Do the right thing. Do it for the good people of the world who would never support this kind of behavior in any other industry. Do it because racism is wrong, even in the NBA. It’s so wrong, that it does not deserve a seat at the table. Sterling is so abhorrent, that not only should the players be so disgusted that they won’t play for him, but I think we should all be disappointed if they do play for him. Do the right thing, Clips.
No One Should Support Donald "Racist" Sterling, Including the Clippers http://t.co/KY0hFDPyuK
— Eliyahu Fink (@efink) April 27, 2014