Donald Sterling Is Still Winning, So Now What?

Unfortunately, racism is more American than apple pie.
Publish date:
April 30, 2014
racism, nba, Donald Sterling

Let’s get straight to the point: Donald Sterling is still winning. Despite getting booted from the NBA and banned by Commissioner Adam Silver, the 80-year-old billionaire is taking his geriatric racism straight to the bank.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Commissioner Silver announced he was banning Sterling from the league and fining him $2.5 million for his now-infamous remarks admonishing his biracial paramour for cavorting with the blacks, and exposing the fact that she wasn’t the "delicate" White or Latina woman his friends believed her to be.

Apparently, their very strange convo began after Sterling’s mistress, V. Stiviano, posted a photo with NBA great Magic Johnson to Instagram. After seeing the photo, Sterling said to Stiviano, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?"

He went on to wonder why she’d dare post a picture with the legend (uh, cuz it’s Magic Johnson?), because, you know, people might see that she hangs with the Blacks.

“Don't put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me,” Sterling said. “And don't bring him to my games.”

That last tidbit, about not wanting Magic -- and by extension black people -- at his games is what landed Sterling in hot water and led to his ouster from the league. And if three-quarters of team owners agree that he’s bad for business, Sterling will be forced to sell the Clippers.

But despite everything, he’ll still come out on top.

Though many are celebrating his public shaming and congratulating the NBA for sending a message, Sterling can lick his wounds while he enjoys a several-hundred-million dollar profit if he’s forced to sell the team.

Quick recap: Sterling bought the Clippers for $12.5 million is 1981, and today, they’re worth more than $700 million. Moreover, while he’s banned from the Clippers day-to-day operations, Sterling will still make money every time a ticket is sold, a ball is bounced, and merchandise flies off the shelf.

In short: he wins.

But that’s just one part of the story. Back in 2009 former Clippers executive and hall of fame player Elgin Baylor filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against Sterling, claiming he ran the organization based on a “plantation type structure;” and that same year Sterling -- a real estate magnate and once the largest landowner in Beverly Hills -- paid $2.75 million, in the biggest housing discrimination settlement in history for refusing to rent to African-Americans, Latinos, or families with children -- all facts the NBA knew all about.

Since the tape of Donald Sterling’s ramblings was leaked I’ve been trying hard to give a damn about his comments, but I just can’t do it.

As with many decrepit old bigots, Sterling’s views are deeply engrained in who he is and no amount of hand wringing or public shaming or team stripping is going to change that. Furthermore, I’m ambivalent toward the NBA because they let Sterling cook FOR YEARS (while instituting a dress code aimed at making Black players look “respectable”) despite his record of racism, so forgive me for not patting Commissioner Silver, who's been with the league since 1992, on the back and anointing him a hero.

The good thing about Sterling’s comments, however, is they illustrate just how quickly folks will disavow racism when money is involved.

Just as Republicans cut and ran from their cause célèbre, welfare cowboy Cliven Bundy after he argued that Black folks were better off as slaves -- you know, in the good old days when Black women had gardens and chickens and Black men had something to do -- sponsors fled from Sterling’s Clippers in droves because associating with a racist is bad for the brand -- at least in the short term.

We’ve seen this tape before. When it was revealed that the Queen of Butter Paula Deen used the n-word, her deep-fried empire crumbled before our eyes. And after Don Imus got dragged for calling Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy headed hoes” he lost his popular morning show and was banished from the air.

For a while.

Though Sterling won’t be able to make a comeback (he is 80, y’all), people like him -- Paula Deen, Don Imus -- always do.

While folks are congratulating the NBA for kicking Sterling’s old time racist ass to the curb, Phoenix Suns Vice Chairman Jahm Najafi (who’ll be voting on Sterling’s fate) has poured over $100 million into Paula Deen Ventures to make her comeback happen. And though many are still quick to say Imus’ name like it's a curse word, he’s back on Fox News serving up his special brand of foolishness.

Unfortunately, racism is more American than apple pie. It’s what this country was founded on, and it’s what will remain when the last of the empire falls. But in the meantime, if we’re to go ham on every bigot who finds himself on the summer jam screen, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said in Time, let’s also be vigilant about calling out racism everywhere -- not just the few days it’s on the front page of TMZ.