In the midst of the NBA playoffs, one team has been forced to deal with much more than winning or losing. An audio clip released by TMZ Sports caught Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, making racist comments to his girlfriend. He expressed that he did not want his girlfriend publicly associating with black people and did not want her to bring any of them to his games. Although the remarks brought shock to both those within the basketball world and the public, it was not the first time Sterling’s actions have landed him in hot water. In the past he has been sued a number of times for discriminating against minorities that had tried to rent apartments from him. This incident provoked comments from many throughout the country.
As the news spread upon the audio release, the NBA decided to address the issue immediately. Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, held a press conference where he briefly discussed the situation and explained that any disciplinary action taken would take place after Sterling received his due process. Just a few days later, Silver made the announcement that Sterling was banned from the NBA and any ownership activities for the remainder of his life. He was also fined $2.5 million. Silver has not been the commissioner long, but was quickly put to the test in this situation with no precedent. The NBA community was very happy with the decision that he made. Sterling will possibly be forced to sell the team as well. Silver has convinced the NBA board to vote on the matter. In the meantime, a CEO will be appointed to take over the day-to-day operations of the team.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a Hall of Fame basketball player who played for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers from 1969 to 1989. He expressed that he was upset by the comments made by Sterling, but was also disturbed that it took this long to do anything.
“He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing. It was public record and we did nothing,” said Abdul-Jabbar in an interview with Time Magazine. “Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram, and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?”
But this punishment does not resolve the whole problem.
“Instead of being content to punish Sterling and go back to sleep, we need to be inspired to vigilantly seek out, expose, and eliminate racism at its first signs,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
This incident came at a very poor time for the Clippers. Not only were they in season, but they were in the middle of their first playoff series against the Golden State Warriors. Upon hearing the news, head coach Doc Rivers stated that he was shocked and disturbed by the racist remarks made by the team’s owner. There was even a discussion with the players considering whether or not they would boycott one of their games. The coach did end up cancelling a practice for them to mull over the thought, but the game was played. Rivers was not concerned about losing any fan support over this incident.
“The 14 guys that we dress, they did nothing wrong,” Rivers said to ESPN. “They need support and I think that will happen.”
Rivers was very pleased with the punishment decision made by Adam Silver. Now that the organization does not need to concern itself with Sterling, the team can move forward.
“It’s not over,” said Rivers. “But it is the start of the healing process that we need and the start of our organization to try to get through this.”
The Clippers responded well to the situation and managed to win their playoff series against the Warriers to advance to the second round.
President Obama chimed in his own opinions on the Sterling incident. The president described Sterling’s comments as “incredibly offensive racist statements” and said that they demonstrate the ongoing legacy of discrimination in America that people need to stand against. As most of this issue has been central to the NBA, the president spoke of the much broader issue of racism in our country.
“We have made enormous strides, but you are going to see this percolate up every so often,” Obama said in a news conference. “I think we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out so much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.”
Several celebrities including Rhianna, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg and Kevin Hart have also weighed in with their own reactions to the incident. Rihanna made her discontent with the situation clear by posting pictures on Instagram accompanied by sad faces. Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne each made their own videos in which they speak their peace on the incident. Snoop’s video has far too many expletives to quote, but suffice it to say that he was outraged with Sterling’s comments.
Lil Wayne stated that he refuses any further association with the team. Kevin Hart took to Twitter, saying that as long as Sterling was the owner, he would not attend any more games.
These are just a few examples of the many celebrites to publicly comment on the situation. Several others can be found throughout Twitter by searching for Sterling’s name.
SEATTLE U STUDENTS
Some Seattle U students shared their opinions on the Sterling incident.
“He is an idiot,” said junior Kathy Rizzo. “The punishment is totally justified.”
“What he said was unprofessional and morally wrong, especially in today’s society,” said freshman Steven Richardson.
“He also said later that he wished he had paid off his girlfriend, which just shows what kind of person he is. The ban is a good thing in my opinion.”
“I don’t know too much about this but the fact that he was working with people he doesn’t like is messed up,” said sophomore Tali Missirlian. “He doesn’t deserve to be in the league at all.”
“The things he said were completely ridiculous especially when he runs an organization with a very diverse team,” said freshman Victor DeSimone. “It is a double standard, and it is surprising those views still exist. I think it is good that he was banned. He shouldn’t be allowed back.”
Hall of Fame basketball player and Seattle University alum Elgin Baylor was not surprised at all to hear the comments made by Sterling. Baylor, Seattle U class of 1958, served as the general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers for 22 years. He left the position in 2008 and sued Sterling in court for wrongful termination and discrimination based off of age and race. Sterling won the case. In the lawsuit, Baylor claimed that Sterling had an ongoing racist attitude and viewed the Clippers organization as a “southern plantation-type structure.”
Baylor’s former lawyer Carl Douglas told the Associated Press, “It put a smile on my face that finally he would be unable to deny the racist allegations against him.”