Even if you aren’t a sports fan, chances are that you have caught wind of the David Sterling controversy. Sterling, who has owned the LA Clippers basketball team for 33 years, has always been a bit of a prickly figure in the NBA. Throughout the years he has been fined several times and had contentious relationships with players, coaches, and other owners. In recent years, he has faced accusations of ageism, racism, sexisms and probably a few other “isms” as well.
On April 29th, 2014, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made the announcement that Sterling has been banned from the NBA for life and will have to pay a $2.5 million. Essentially, the ban means that he will not be able to attend any games or have access to facilities. The ban will also probably result in a vote by the other 29 owners to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.
This incident is just the latest in a lifetime of inappropriate behavior and lawsuits over claims of discrimination. Based on his history, I don’t think anyone should be surprised by his comments about black players and the fact that he told his girlfriend to not associate or be photographed with black people. In the meantime, the poor girl is also probably getting phone calls from her mother telling her not to be photographed with old married men. What’s a young girl in a relationship with an 80 year-old married man to do?
The real controversy is about whether or not Sterling should be allowed to have his personal opinions without that affecting his work. Unfortunately for Sterling, the NBA is governed by its own constitution, so any penalties that are handed down have already been outlined and agreed upon well before Sterling was caught on tape, so for intents and purposes any debate about free speech is more of an intellectual exercise.
What I find most embarrassing about this whole situation is that the tape was probably made public by either his wife or his girlfriend, who appear to be in a battle over him (read: his money). The situational irony is pretty thick here because he started his career as a divorce attorney. Perhaps he should have seen this kind of dirty tactic coming.
Bottom line: Sterling is a racist and a rich racist at that. I doubt that he will issue any sort of apology because his arrogance insulates him from actually feeling bad about his actions or having any sort of sympathy towards other people, especially those who aren’t rich white men.
For argument’s sake, let’s remove the element of social class here and ignore the circumstances under which his comments were made public and focus on Sterling’s opinions. He is 80 years old. This means that he lived through segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, and almost a century of institutional racism. Is he simply a product of his time? As each generation passes, tolerance for diversity increases, so should he be vilified for expressing opinions that many his age also possess? I mean, have you read Uncle Tom’s Cabin lately? At the time, it inspired many people to become Abolitionists, but by today’s standards it is pretty darn racist.
Perhaps what is most disturbing about this whole story is that a group of people, including two greedy and morally void women, who regularly showcase the worst aspects of human behavior have been elevated to such a high level of success. How is it that racism, sexism, and every other form of discrimination has been so richly rewarded?
Amy M. Blitchok is a professional writer and researcher who specializes in issues relating to seniors, aging in place and mobility technology. She works to disseminate important information that will help everyone live a longer healthier life and age comfortably and gracefully. Currently, she writes for AmeriGlide.com and contributes to several major industry related blogs and websites.