Commentary: Sterling Ban Was Overdue
FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2010, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, third right, sits with V. Stiviano, left, as they watch the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles. NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced Tuesday, April 29, 2014, that he is banning the owner for life from the Clippers organization over racist comments in recording. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File)
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addresses the media during a news conference, in New York, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Silver announced that he is banning Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling for life from the Clippers organization over racist comments in a recording. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Orlando, Fla. — Delinquent justice. Convenient outrage. Contrived indignation.
“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday in announcing a landmark lifetime ban of racist Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. “That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage.”
The Orlando Magic also jumped on board the belated bigot-bashing bandwagon and released a statement saying ownership feels “the recent reprehensible comments by Donald Sterling were absolutely unacceptable and do not reflect the values and beliefs of our organization or our league.”
Question: Where was all this public fire and fury before and why — shamefully — did it take TMZ.com to force the NBA’s hand on an owner who has been a known racist for years? And another thing: Shouldn’t the NBA, a sport where the work force is nearly 80 percent black, have been more diligent in ridding itself of such an insensitive, ignorant racist?
Nobody will dispute that Silver got it right Tuesday and Sterling deserved the lifetime ban and the maximum $2.5 million fine for the racist comments he made in the illegally recorded conversation with his mistress that was posted on TMZ.com. But please spare us the hypocritical league rhetoric about being shocked and appalled by his comments. In between lauding Silver for his landmark decision, shouldn’t we also be asking him and his ex-boss — former league Commissioner David Stern —where all this personal outrage was during the past decade, when everybody in the NBA knew Sterling was a racist but refused to do anything about it?
So let me see if I’ve got this straight: The league banned Sterling because of a secretly recorded conversation with his sleazy mistress who coaxed and cajoled him into his racist rant, but it refused to ban him based upon evidence in past federal lawsuits — evidence that showed a much more damaging form of racism?
Why didn’t Silver, Stern and the NBA conduct an internal investigation in 2006 when the U.S. Department of Justice sued Sterling — a real-estate magnate — for housing discrimination when he allegedly said, “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
Why didn’t Silver, Stern and the NBA investigate Sterling in 2009 when he paid $2.73 million in a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit alleging he discriminated against blacks, Hispanics and families with children in his rental properties?
Why didn’t Silver, Stern and the NBA investigate Sterling again in 2009 when one of the league’s greatest former players — ex-Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor — sued Sterling for age and racial discrimination. Baylor said Sterling had a “plantation mentality” and claimed Sterling once told him: “I would like to have a white Southern coach coaching poor black players.”
What’s worse: Putting black tenants and their kids out on the street because you don’t want the “vermin” in your apartment buildings or telling your sugar-baby mistress not to post a picture of Magic Johnson on her Instagram account?
“What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise,” NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in an editorial for Time.com. “Really? All this (stuff) has been going on for years, and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun?
“... If we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. ... He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing. It was public record. We did nothing. 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?”
Much like Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and fellow baseball owners had their heads buried in the sand about steroids in baseball, it seems Stern, Silver and NBA’s ownership were willfully ignorant about Sterling’s racism. Everybody in the league knew about it, but nobody was willing to confront it.
Until TMZ left no choice.
Happily, the NBA did everything in its power to rid itself of a racist Tuesday.
Sadly, the exorcism is about 10 years too late.