“We can celebrate for a little bit, but we have to remain focused because there’s more work to be done”.
It’s a very old cliché that you always hear from athletes as they strive for championships and greatness. It’s also something that can be said for achievements in life. When you do great on the SAT test, get accepted to a well acclaimed university, or even something as simple as building a desk for your brand new room, you know there is always more work to be done.
I will never lose my love for sports simply for the fact that sports more than anything, can bring so many people together to stand up to something, or bring more unity. We will hate each other during election years. We will hate each other when it comes to a tragedy involving religion whether it happens in our own country or outside in the world. Heck people were even divided in pro sports with the rising number of individuals coming out as gay. But when an issue arises that affects everyone, especially in sports, you tend to see a unity you won’t find in many more situations even if it’s a much bigger issue than sports.
When it comes to racism in the world there are those who believe it no longer exists, those who believe it’s all over and is involved in everything that happens in the world, and there are those who know it still exists but understand that it doesn’t always show up. When racism is exhibited you find yourself seeing boundaries and wonder if you should attempt to cross them or not. If someone is racist towards you how do you react? Do you even bother to tell someone else? To African-Americans, being called the N word by non-African Americans can be the most detrimental thing you can say to a person. To non-African Americans, the worst thing you can call them is a racist. NO one wants to be called a racist. You can hurt a man or woman by calling them a name such as a bitch; in fact, in today’s society in my generation you can hurt someone’s feelings by labeling them as a fake. But when you speak the words “you’re a racist” to a person of any race it strikes harder than anything else.
When it comes to racism people never want to acknowledge it. A person will admit when they are a liar, a fraud, a cheater, or a criminal but never will anyone admit that he or she is a racist. Along with a person never admitting to being one, a person will never admit to being associated with one. Whenever a racial incident happens the first words you hear are “I am not a racist nor have I ever been or have ever associated with people who are racist”. It’s the most basic, generic and fake guilt response you can provide. People would rather cover up knowing that they associate with a racist than admit to it and try to change the person that is deemed as their racist associate.
So maybe this was what the NBA was thinking for the past 32 years.
Two weeks ago TMZ released a phone conversation of NBA Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend/mistress V. Stiviano. The audio was recorded by Stiviano without Sterling’s consent, and no one knows how the recording ended up in the hands of TMZ, but that is neither here or there. The fact is that when the recording was released it caused a catastrophic wave in the sports industry. Here you have the longest tenured owner in league history bashing the leagues most predominant race that makes up its brand. A man whose team is 90 percent African-American was heard seemingly implying that he owns them. His words were hurtful and shocking to all of us. It was something that popped up after his team had just finished a terrific game versus its opponent, the Golden State Warriors, in game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Something that wasn’t even a story dropped by the great Adrian Wojinarowski, but instead by TMZ, casting a ginormous black cloud over a league that was arguably in the midst of its best overall postseason in years.
But when you look at the whole picture nothing should really shock you.
With the rise of technology and the Internet, social media is the biggest format to create, attract, and deliver attention to any subject. The case is always evident when involved with politics, religion, and celebrities. If social media were not a factor in our ways of life celebrities wouldn’t use it as a way to clear up rumors. If social media was not the biggest format to spread word, LeBron James would never meet Ebony Nettles-Bey, a Wisconsin basketball player who is battling stage 4 cancer. Nettles-Bey’s dream was to meet LeBron James, leading to the twitter hashtag #LeBronMeetEbony which then become a dominant trending topic for months. The topic reached such publicity that ESPN did a story and shortly months later while the Miami Heat were on the road to face the Milwaukee Bucks, Lebron granted Ebony her wish and met her and even let her hang out with him and the team during pregame routines and introductions. It was a touching moment that not only felt awesome, but also felt unique and cool. For something like twitter to be the platform to pull this off for a high school girl is something that shows what we can look forward to in the future. Social media will never die; it is the greatest display of the natural form of the gift and the curse and what we do with it is up to us individually, but we’ve reached that phase where nothing can truly be great or happen without it.
In the case of the Donald Sterling saga, you can make the argument that without social media, the anger that stems from his comments and the outburst of reactions and a call for action from the NBA onto Sterling could possibly never happen. To us individuals whom are not lucky enough to be paid to cover sports (one day I will!) the closest way before social media in regards to knowing what was happening was through SportsCenter and local newspapers. Along with social media’s rise came the access to knowing more than we could ever know. Twitter allows us to not want nor even need SportsCenter anymore. The simplicity of looking on your phone and following the beat writers who spend their days and nights with your favorite team in order to give you the information you need is equivalent to Christmas being everyday for sports fans. Even when reporters are national instead of local league writers, their job of covering teams requires them to interact with not only the players, but also the coaching staff, training staff, and front office including PR, the general manager, team president, and of course the owner of the team.
So of course only Donald Sterling surprised us fans.
What spawned as results of the tapes were questions and issues that should have been answered and taken care of years ago, but for some reason merely never happened. Articles that were written almost a decade ago were being recognized and acknowledged now, when they clearly should have been acknowledged at the time of the release. We found out that what Sterling was saying was just “Sterling being Sterling”. Nothing changed for Sterling even after he made the record 2.75 million dollar settlement after being sued by the Department of Justice for housing discrimination. After being sued for allegedly refusing to rent apartments in Beverly Hills and Koreatown to African-Americans, and Hispanics as well as people with children, Sterling was never punished by the NBA. Even before his 2009 settlement, in 2003 19 plaintiffs sued Sterling for housing discrimination alleging that he was trying to drive blacks and Hispanics out of his buildings. With two settled lawsuits, Sterling’s views/hatred/senile mind or whatever you choose to see it as was clearly on display to see.
The NBA did nothing, but there was no trending topic around either.
I first found out about who Donald Sterling was in 2011 while listening to ESPN’S Bomani Jones radio show. The topic was about how Sterling decided to have a black history night during a Los Angeles Clippers game. The problem was not the fact that Sterling was having black history night there is nothing wrong with honoring black history month at all.
At the time it seemed funny. It had the wow factor and shock value as well, but it didn’t seem like an issue, especially considering it was not a headline story on any news channel. Considering what is headlining news this week, one would obviously think a wrong night for a celebration for black history month seems like it could gain much news attraction right? So when the Sterling issue arose we were shocked, we haven’t seen such clear-cut racist remarks from a person in high power in quite sometime. I had to sit back and listen to the recording several times. After the first listen along with reading stories and hearing reactions to Donald Sterling, I came to only three conclusions after re-listening to the recorded conversation once again:
- What Donald Sterling said truly shouldn’t have surprised me at all.
- Remember he is 80 years old after all.
- This is as much about Donald Sterling as it is about the NBA and the LA community letting him get away with these incidents, and continuing to let him own the team and award him!
The first conclusion is sad considering it shouldn’t have surprised me. The second stems from the fact that the elderly simply grew up in a different world and if you’re expecting their views and beliefs to change then you’re also expecting me to be president once I’m eligible at the age of 35 (Vote Brandon Dugger for president 2026).
It’s the third conclusion that needs to be dealt with.
Amidst all of this with the lawsuit settlements, being sued by the Department of Justice twice, and not to forget NBA great and a former employer Elgin Baylor suing Sterling for discrimination, the NBA never did ANYTHING. Not only did the NBA do nothing, but Sterling was somehow awarded a lifetime achievement award by the NAACP. Not only was he given this lifetime achievement award, but before this incident Sterling was slated to receive a SECOND lifetime achievement award by the same Los Angeles NAACP chapter. Somehow Donald Sterling was able to receive a lifetime achievement award, die, then come back to life and receive another lifetime achievement award.
In the aftermath of the incident, Sterling was indefinitely suspended by the NBA, and ironically, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver. David Stern retired just in time to not have to answer to why HE never punished Sterling, but as long as justice is served the people will be satisfied.
But Sterling came back.
This week both Donald Sterling and his wife Shelly Sterling conducted interviews: Shelly with Barbra Walters and Donald with Anderson Cooper. While Shelly went on to say that she does not think her husband is a racist and insist that she is divorcing him, she made a claim that she intends to fight the NBA in order to keep her stake in the team. This the wife of a man who settled for the largest settlement for a discrimination case, and also a woman who allegedly pretended to be a housing inspector in order to see whom was living there. Now all of sudden does not think her husband is a racist, nor did she think it was him on the tape even though they have been married for over 50 years. On Anderson Cooper Sterling cried, pleaded that the players love him, and that he will be back.
Then conclusions 1 & 2 showed up right on time.
In the interview Sterling was asked about his comments in the phone conversation about Magic in which he replied:
“STERLING: What has he done? Can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done?
COOPER: Well, he has — he’s a businessperson. He –
STERLING: He’s got AIDS. Did he do any business? I would like — did he help anybody in South L.A.? “
He later went on to state he had talked to the other 29 NBA owners and said that they supported him then seconds later retracted the statement. The man has no idea what is truly happening around him and I feel like at 80 years old it shouldn’t be surprising.
Donald Sterling will eventually fade away. It won’t be as smooth and quickly as everyone would hope; it will be messy and more disturbing through the court system, but it will happen. When it does everyone will look back and ask questions that may never be answered such as
- How was this man the longest tenured owner in the league despite his team never being good?
- Great that he is gone, but why was he allowed to stay this long?
- If we never have the audience that is social media, is this even an issue?
At the end this is a case of another person being who they have always been for their entire lives. It shouldn’t have taken an uprise of tweets, or Instagram and Facebook postings to get Sterling exiled, and just because he is banned doesn’t mean that all is well….
But I guess nothing can truly happen until you’re trending.
May 15, 2014 | Categories: Basketball, Just A Thought | Tags: Anderson Cooper, Anderson Cooper Sterling, black history, Donald Sterling, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, NBA, Race, Social media, Sterling | Leave a comment