Donald Sterling is a miserable human being.
I don't think I'm breaking any new news with that statement about the Los Angeles Clippers' longtime, largely inept, and very rich owner. Yes, it is technically my opinion, but it is an opinion widely shared around the NBA, and I'm certain it's shared by the hundreds of people directly and indirectly affected by Sterling's questionable and callous business practices, which include (but are not limited to) discrimination against potential minority tenants at his residential properties.
In the past, Sterling has settled multiple lawsuits against him for discriminatory rental and employment practices, so when it comes to past accusations of racism, Sterling has hardly shouted from the proverbial rooftops in denial. He's just bought his way out of the nuisances caused by his racism.
All the while, the NBA stood by and watched, allowing Sterling's Clippers to make money hand over fist, despite Sterling's warped views on the world. Finally, though, Sterling's string as an NBA owner may be running out.
It took two things for the perpetual dumpster fire that is the reign of Sterling to turn into a full on inferno this weekend:
1. Sterling's racist comments saw the light of day outside of a court room, raw and unedited (it appears, at least), when a girlfriend of Sterling's (referred to as "V. Stiviano") appears to have recorded a fifteen minute conversation with the Clippers' owner, and that conversation somehow found its way into the hands of TMZ and Deadspin.
2. The object of Sterling's hateful views was no longer faceless, poor minority families. It was, among others, Magic Johnson, a respected and revered African-American billionaire and NBA legend.
The confluence of these two circumstances was the green light for people around the NBA -- players, former players, commentators, even the President of the United States -- to finally say what they've already known all of these years, but passively allowed to fester: Donald Sterling is a bigot, in every sense of the word, and shouldn't own an NBA team.
In case you missed it, here are the recordings of Sterling's comments, in two separate files:
So, the summary goes like this: Sterling doesn't like his mixed race girlfriend bringing black people to Clippers games, or posing in pictures on her Instagram with black people (including Magic Johnson), all in the name of some nebulous "culture" which Sterling leans upon to justify his racist views.
Along the way, we even get a plantation owner-style "without me, they wouldn't have food, clothing, or shelter" type rant that would make actual plantation owners (and possibly the NCAA) blush:
"You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have--Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?"
It was all pretty terrible, but hardly shocking.
Reaction flooded the internet for the next 48 hours. There was the small matter of an actual game the Clippers had to play on Sunday, a 118-97 debacle of a loss to Golden State. Here was Clippers coach Doc Rivers on Saturday when first confronted with the news of the Sterling recordings:
Rivers: "Honestly, I'm completely against that and they were too. Why should we let someone's comments stop what we're trying to do. We're trying to do something too here and we don't want that to get in the way of what we want to do. I think the biggest statement we can make as men -- not as black men, as men -- is to stick together and show how strong we are as a group, not splinter, not walk. It's easy to protest. The protest will be in our play."
The two major NBA studio shows weighed in. First, there was the Shaq/Ernie/Kenny/Chuck quartet on TNT's Inside The NBA:
And ESPN's NBA Countdown:
How do you know this is kind of a big deal? Well, the President took time during a news conference about Malaysia to address Sterling:
Obama: "When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk."
The next morning, NBA Countdown was back with Magic Johnson himself on the set as a guest in a powerful interview:
Johnson: "I believe once commissioner Silver does all his due diligence and gathers the information, he has to come down hard. He shouldn't own the team anymore, and he should stand up and say 'I don't want to own a team anymore.'"
Hell, this was such a big topic, TMZ even stopped former Clipper (and Rocket) Cuttino Mobley outside a restaurant to get his thoughts. The 38
going on 76 year old Mobley had this to say:
For this part, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said, in the spirit of due process, the league will investigate the authenticity of the audio, but will do so swiftly and come to a conclusion on who to handle Sterling going forward, which could include forcing him to sell the team.
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Should that wind up being Sterling's punishment, it might wind up being the most lucrative punishment ever:
Worst case scenario for Sterling? Forced to sell team for $700 mill that he bought with THREE MILLION BUCKS. UP FRONT. Boo friggin hoo.
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) April 27, 2014
The clock is ticking...