Racism, bigotry and discrimination.
Usually these are adjectives to avoid – as are the feelings associated with them. However, for former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, these words were a Tuesday afternoon or a meeting with a tenant of one his many inner city apartment buildings.
For me, being a white male, it is nearly impossible for me to speak on the topics of discrimination and racism from a first-hand experience. However, that does not mean I don’t come in contact with it. I’ve heard racist remarks, and I’ve always resented individuals who decide a racist remark is appropriate for my ears, or who assume that I share that individual’s ignorant mindset.
However, intentional or not, Sterling’s comments have brought attention to these important issues. If a dialogue can be created in which racism, bigotry and discrimination are discussed then perhaps potential positive outcomes can result from a very negative situation.
One of the obvious positive outcomes of the situation is that the National Basketball Association can now jettison perhaps its most stigmatic and polarizing figure. Unfortunately, the NBA’s constitution does not allow the league’s administrators to simply remove him from his ownership position. A three-quarters majority is required in a voting process conducted by the 29 other franchise owners.
While this board of trustees voted in favor of removing Sterling from his position, and Sterling is banned for life from the NBA, he was still able to collect a cool $2 billion- that’s right billion with a “B” for the Clippers, who were recently purchased by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Two billion dollars. Lest we all forget, this is a team who during Sterling’s ownership won a pathetic 37 percent of its games.
The $2 billion spent on the Clips was by far the highest price ever paid for an NBA franchise, with the second highest coming earlier in the year from the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million. The Bucks are a team who actually have some history, winning a championship in the ‘70s with players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
If the Clippers, a team that hasn’t won a championship, and until the past two or three years was the laughing stock of not just the NBA but all of professional sports, are worth $2 billion, what are the Boston Celtics, the most decorated NBA team ever, worth? What are the Lakers worth? The Knicks? Call me crazy, but I’d love to be “punished” to the tune of $2 billion.
Unfortunately, there is little financial damage that can be done to the billionaire, not even a $2.5 million fine (the highest that the NBA’s constitution allows it to impose) could even make a dent in Sterling’s now even deeper pockets.
The money aside, the Sterling situation has at least gotten people to think about things like racism and discrimination. This must be viewed as a positive. In America, there are certain topics that just make some people squirm – topics like racism and bigotry are some of these. People want to pretend it’s not there, even though the unfortunate truth is that it never fully went away.
People like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks did tremendous things for minorities, and conditions did improve, and anti-discrimination laws were imposed.
Unfortunately, racism still lives.
I think that racism lives, in part, because people are simply afraid to talk about it. We must be willing to discuss and by extension, change our ideas. Hopefully the massive media attention that has been paid to Sterling’s situation will get people to realize that black, white, Asian, Hispanic or whatever the case may be, we are all human beings and we are all in this together.
My hope is that this inspires a new generation of people who refuse to be held down by bigotry, or refuse to see others held down. The work has been started by those advocates in the past, but it is not finished. Maybe this generation‘s MLK is out there, and hopefully he too will have a dream.
By Nate Budryk