When the owner of the L.A. Clippers basketball franchise sticks his foot in his mouth, it’s big news. Especially when it appears to be bigoted, racists remarks. I don’t profess to be a big sports fan or follower. There are more important things to do than watching other people play games. But for many, it’s a big part of their lives.
Donald Sterling was heard in an audio recording disparaging black people in general, and some in specific. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t ok. He shouldn’t have thought those things, let alone SAID them. At first I wondered how they confirmed it was really him on the audio, but he openly admitted to the league commissioner that it was in fact him, and it was not altered. At least he owned up to it.
People are demanding action against Sterling. The NBA league is looking into what actions they can take. Like I said, I don’t know the in’s and out’s of a sports league, but can the “league” really force an owner to sell his interest in a team? According to USA Today, the league has fined him and “banned him for life” from the NBA. That action is in accordance with their constitution and bylaws. Now team owners will decide by a vote whether or not to force him to sell the team. A 3/4’s majority is required in that vote.
Many players rightfully feel offended. And it isn’t good for business to disenfranchise your employees. Likewise, it isn’t a good idea to offend your fan base either, and plenty of people (of ALL colors) were offended by his remarks.
While I don’t agree with his remarks, I do stand by the U.S. Constitution, the 1st Amendment, and his right to express himself, no matter how misguided, rude, prejudiced, and just plain wrong he may be. The fact that his comments were racist are no different than if he’d said not to bring anymore “blond-haired, blue-eyed Swedes” to the game, except that racial tensions are high. And President Obama talking about throwbacks to slavery and all, well, that’s just over-the-top hype to fuel racial sensitivities. There was no indication of that. Discrimination is discrimination regardless of the differentiating bias.
Personally, I’d rather know where a person stands than to have them cover up or lie to my face about what they believe in. I like to know who I’m associating with so I can make a choice as to whether or not to continue in that relationship, even if it’s as a sports fan. Now we all know where he stands and can make a choice as to whether or not to support his business.
The other team owners will decide whether or not he can continue to retain ownership of his time. On the face of it, I don’t really like the thought of someone being forced out of business (or employment) for expressing personally held views, regardless of how vile, as long as they do not affect job performance. It just seems as anti-American as something can get. However, in this case, if Sterling signed the contact with that stipulation, it’s fair to expect him to abide by it (though I wouldn’t put it past him to challenge it in court, just for sport!)
For the time being, players (employees) are stuck working for a guy who they may or may not have known clearly has some racist issues. Fortunately, they have the right to seek employment elsewhere, so they don’t have to work for a bigot. It’s a free market principle.
And fans can choose to boycott his team (business) and patronize others or not. Many advertisers and sponsor have pulled out. That’s understandable. They have their own businesses to protect and being associated with someone spewing poison isn’t good for that! That’s how the free market works. If you don’t like the way someone conducts business, you go elsewhere.
Acting like a jerk isn’t good for business, as I’m sure he’s found out rather quickly.
This man has been the owner of this team for 30 years. If he really felt this way about “black people” it’s hard to imagine him being able to cover it up so well for so long. Guess what? It wasn’t a secret. In fact, people, and more specifically players, had heard him make racist comments about blacks for many, many years now. But no one ever outted him. Why’d they cover for him for so long? And why the outcry all of a sudden?
What will be interesting to watch unfold is whether or not the old saying “there’s no such thing as bad press” holds true in this instance?
Let me know what you think.
Contributed by guest writer and Real Side Producer, Tammy Messina.
Photo credit via Flickr Michael Tipton