The Donald Sterling drama has formed a dark cloud over what would be one of the most exciting NBA playoffs in years. Five out of the eight first round matchups went to game sevens. Two series had multiple overtime games including a fantastic OKC/Memphis set that included four by itself. But all of that entertainment pales in comparison to the ill will brought forth by Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver George Bushed the button and banned Sterling for life from associating with The Clippers and tasked the NBA Board of Governors with forcing Sterling to sell the franchise. There was a firestorm of protest including the threat of a player boycott pending Silver’s edict and the threat of same pending what the Board of Governors’ decision.
While many called for Sterling’s swift removal, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban warned of a slippery slope where words can cause someone to get separated from property. Many raised eyebrows at this but in my opinion, Cuban is dead right.
America’s race issues will always bubble beneath the surface because there is never a real discussion about them. The Sterling situation highlights this in ways that aren’t readily apparent. Sterling’s delusion is borne of the market. People know what kind of person he is. They know about the housing lawsuits. They know about the Elgin Baylor incidents. They know that he was a horrible NBA owner for most of his run until he was gift-wrapped Chris Paul and lucked into Blake Griffin. But nobody protested.
Nobody stopped buying Clipper jerseys. No player stopped taking his money. No fan stopped buying tickets. Everyone happily turned a blind eye to this guy. As long as they got what they wanted out of this and the Clippers were a competitive team and the money kept flowing, Sterling was someone who could be tolerated.
Am I to believe that a secretly taped conversation where a guy was being himself in privacy is somehow worse than denying people who can afford to live somewhere the opportunity to do better for their familes? That is an immutable existential issue. There are laws in place SPECIFICALLY to combat that issue in housing. What Mr. Sterling says by his actions in real estate is to hell with your hard work. To hell with you and your children. Stay in the hood with the rest of your kind. That speaks volumes louder than banning someone from watching a game.
Forcing Sterling to sell the Clippers removes the social responsibility from the fans, the players and the league’s marketing partners. The partners stepped up first and removed their money from the equation. There is word that the players were ready to boycott and remain ready to get into action. But what about the fans?
For all the furor over Sterling’s comments and the faux outrage, was there a discernible drop in ticket sales? Was the crowd at these playoff games thinner than normal? Has Clipper gear gone down in sales? If there was a drop, trust me, it would have been reported. We wait for the next person to get in hot water and then dog pile them via mass and social media. Did we need a vengeful mistress to take Sterling to task? If he paid her off and we never heard him, would it still be cool to support him in spite of his record?
This is America. If someone owns a business and doesn’t like gays, blacks, or whomever, those groups can stop purchasing, the money will dry up and he will sell or move. This is mechanically more sophisticated than that, but the fact remains: if people were TRULY outraged, why are they still supporting the Clippers? I love the game. I haven’t even watched a Clippers game since this came out. It’s tough, but fuck that bigot, his wife and his team.
Imagine how the Montgomery Bus Boycott would have turned out if enough Black people said well, I don’t like the back of the bus, but I don’t like carpooling or walking to work. Change isn’t easy. Resistance never is. But if watching a game is worth more to you than justice then let the NBA do your dirty work. This is like the Michael Dunn verdict. Yes he might get 60 years in jail. But he got zero for actually taking the life of Jordan Davis. That is penalty. Not justice.