For years, former commissioner David Stern and the other owners of NBA teams have stood around while Donald Sterling has been an embarrassment to the NBA. They enabled him. Sterling paid the largest fine in American government history for housing discrimination. The stories of his racist actions and comments are extensive and legendary. He ran his team for a profit not to win, at least until recently. Through it all the league did nothing.
Now TMZ has audio allegedly of Sterling arguing with his girlfriend, because she put on her Instagram account a picture of her with Magic Johnson when she met him (she soon after took it down). The audio is hard to listen to it is so disgusting, but here are a few “highlights.”
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”
“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”
“…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.”
Sterling comes off as sad, and the kind of racist in a suit (to quote Henry Aaron) who doesn’t want to discuss his issues but will act on them in private.
The NBA is investigating, said NBA Executive Vice President of Communications Mike Bass.
“We are in the process of conducting a full investigation into the audio recording obtained by TMZ. The remarks heard on the recording are disturbing and offensive, but at this time we have no further information.”
Current commissioner Adam Silver was already slated to address the media in Memphis before the Grizzlies face the Thunder. He will certainly address this, although I’d be surprised if he said much at this point, he’s a lawyer and guarded.
Magic Johnson responded on twitter saying Donald Sterling will get his wish.
If the investigation shows this is Sterling saying these vile things, the NBA finally needs to act. Decisively.
This isn’t on the players to act, this is on the league, on the other owners of teams (who tend not to want to punish their own, less that boomerang back on them someday). Owning a team does not award the right to say anything you want, do anything you want without repercussions. Sterling has been enabled by the NBA ownership and league office for too long, it is time for that to end. It is time for the league to back up it’s rhetoric and say that this behavior is unacceptable for any person.
The league should do what MLB did with Marge Schott — ban him for an extended period from having any interactions or contact with the team, none with operations at all. Push him out of his cushy courtside seats or going back to the locker room. End his courtside party each game where he gets to bask in celebrity.
Eventually that and more forced Schott to sell the team. We should all be so lucky in this case.
Already one Clipper, DeAndre Jordan, made his thoughts known on Instagram.
You can be sure other players will comment as well. Clippers’ star Chris Paul is the president of the players’ union right now, he will have to address this at some point.
But the league should be the one to act. It’s time.