From all accounts, Donald T. Sterling is a vile man. He is a man of avarice and greed, of prejudice and rigging the system in his favor. He has prevented blacks, the elderly, disabled, Mexicans and others from moving into his vast holdings of apartments in Southern California. He also owns a basketball team, famous for its ineptitude and penny-pinching ways, even though Sterling is a billionaire several times over.
This isn’t about Sterling or the reaction of what he said or didn’t say to his ex-“girlfriend.” It is still more about where we are as a society and if we are ever to move past racism. It is the Original Sin of America, a boil that has never been lanced, a wound never allowed to heal.
I could give a shit less about Sterling or his views. Or whether Magic Johnson is HIV-positive. Or the NBA for that matter. This isn’t about them and the majority of players who are African-American who play in the “Association.” It is about race. Sterling brought the Clippers in 1983 and moved them to Los Angeles in 1984 without permission using the Al Davis excuse. Which goes something along the lines of “It’s my team and I’ll move them anywhere I want.”
See this is the lesson that we never learn. Rich and powerful people think the rules of society don’t apply to them. That they, because of their status or pocketbook, can say and do whatever they want and get away with it because “hey, I’m Chevy Chase. And you’re not.”
Now, 40 years ago, that was a funny line. Today, it applies to anyone who is “famous” or a “celebrity.” People who are on TV or in a movie or own a sports team get treated like they come out of the book of Jewish Fairy Tales, well, because they have the looks or the wealth to do things that others, if they tried it, would fail and miserably in the attempt.
Sterling is just the latest in a long line of owners who were racist. Walter O. Briggs once said “No (black) player will ever play for the Detroit Tigers as long as I’m owner.” In the 1950’s. It wasn’t until after Briggs died the Tigers brought in their first black player, the second-to-last team to do so. Charles Broffman was once asked why he brought the Montreal Expos. His response, “I was tired of being an anonymous millionaire.”
It doesn’t matter anymore that this tape of Sterling making the remarks he did was obtained by Harvey Levin, the liberal’s answer to Bernie Goldberg. Or that our national blowhard Rush, has weighed in. Or Roger Murdoch, who’s a pilot. Or that Sterling once employed him under an assumed name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Actually Kareem made some good points in his article for Time magazine (http://time.com/79590/donald-sterling-kareem-abdul-jabbar-racism/) and on Rachel Maddow’s program last night. Ex Clippers GM Elgin Baylor has had a lawsuit going against this man for five years and through wranglings and delays, somehow the message that this guy isn’t a very nice man who treats his employees fairly got lost because well, his team, until recently, has stunk.
But just to prove the old adage that even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time, the Clippers are actually good. Better than their more famous counterparts in the City of Angels, the Lakers (who somehow managed a worse record than the woebegone Pistons this season) and are currently playing the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. Now, winning and advancing seems rather unimportant in lieu of recent events. In reality, Sterling never cared about winning or having an environment conducive to winning.
If this had been said a few years ago, when the team was a perpetual lottery pick, then it might have gone unnoticed. But in this age where everyone is a “journalist,” with a smartphone and nothing is private anymore, anything and everything will be used against you in the court of public opinion. But if you dig a bit deeper, you find that this man has always been this way, a member of the “Big Club,” as Carlin once said, “and you and I ain’t in it.”