TMZ on Friday night released a tape recording of Clippers owner Donald Sterling chiding his girlfriend for appearing at Clippers games and on social media associating with black people, including Magic Johnson. The evidence is pretty damning:
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And then Deadspin released an extended tape of that conversation Sunday morning which goes even deeper into the delusions of a man unwilling to change a distorted and pessimistic worldview about race and even sex. This is a man who is used to being in power and able to control his surrounding through his twisted worldview.
There is really no excuse or rational explanation for what was said. Then you remember it came from Donald Sterling, who has a long, long history of public comments that suggest a racial prejudice and a frame of mind that believes certain people should be put into certain boxes or societal roles. Indeed, he implores his girlfriend in this tape that she should not associate with black or Hispanic people because she should choose to be a “petite white girl” and that blacks and Hispanics will never get along.
These comments are just as repugnant as his imploring that she never take a black person to a Clippers game or be seen with them on social media or in public — I guess, there is some type of jealousy born out of that, but that is a flimsy rationalization as well. But it reveals a man who has refused to grow up or realize the way he was brought up was wrong.
Then again, this is a man who settled the largest discrimination lawsuit for refusing to rent homes in his apartment buildings to black or Hispanic tenants. He has a long, long history of such actions that seem to pop up every few years (so much so that ESPN re-ran a 2009 ESPN the Magazine feature under a fresh headline to remind everyone of it). He was embroiled in another racial discrimination lawsuit with NBA great Elgin Baylor after he was fired from his post and time and time again, stories come out regarding Sterling and the way he treats the players on his team.
There is a reason the Clippers have been so bad for so long.
For whatever it is worth, Sterling defended himself through Clippers president Andy Roeser saying that the tape was doctored in some way and that the girlfriend is the defendant in a million-dollar embezzlement lawsuit Sterling brought against her. The statement said she threatened to “get even” with Sterling if he did not drop the lawsuit. Everyone’s credibility on that issue is completely up in the air.
The response from the NBA family was universal condemnation. The league response was more measured, saying the comments were repugnant but that they would conduct a full investigation to determine the recording’s authenticity and levy some kind of punishment. The Players Association said in a statement that they have every faith Adam Silver will work quickly and judiciously on this matter.
These allegations against Sterling are nothing new, as noted before. He has a strange, checkered history on this matter with comments that suggest he has a worldview that puts people in boxes based on their race or stereotypes of their race while also receiving NAACP lifetime achievement awards. Something just does not line up with this man’s life.
He has enjoyed the status of being an NBA owner, reaping enormous profits in the process, while gutting his team, undermining his management and alienating his players.
Every controversy this man has been involved in has had something to do with his views on race. And where there is smoke, there is typically fire. Especially when it happens time and time again.
No doubt, the NBA needs to find a way to disassociate themselves from this man (and from the family for that matter). The league will find it tough to force him to sell. But the pattern of conduct from Sterling is a black eye on the league and an embarrassment considering who the league’s target audience and largest player demographic is. It is a wonder anyone ever agreed to play for the Clippers. Maybe the most successful thing Doc Rivers or whoever was in charge the last three years did was keep Sterling out of the way. He almost killed the Eric Bledsoe deal, sending Rivers into a fit of anger just a few months into his new job running the team.
There is very real turmoil in this organization and it all originates at the top and the poor relationship between players and management and their owner. The Clippers have won these last three years in spite of their owner not because of him.
It is not healthy for anyone.
Sterling is not going to change. It is so clear his world view is so skewed and distorted — whether it is from upbringing or deep-seated racial prejudice — that there is no saving this man. You can hear him trying to play the “Not to be racist card” throughout his conversation. He genuinely believes he is not being prejudicial with his statements.
That is the saddest part of all this. This is a man who does not know what he is or is unable to comprehend why what he is doing is wrong. He is a man beyond saving.
All the NBA can do is excise the tumor at this point and remove the cancer.