Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIII, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

NBA Should Have Dealt With Sterling Long Ago

Illustration by MaryAnne Bowen.

Commissioner Adam Silver has given Donald Sterling, the maligned owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, a lifetime ban after his racist comments were made public. This is a rare punishment in the sporting world and only invoked in drastic circumstances. The majority of the viewing public, however, did not see this as an overreaction by Silver, but instead completely justified in its severity.

Before I go too far, let me be clear that I think what Donald Sterling said was disgusting and I in no way agree with what he said to his alleged mistress, V. Stiviano. However, I do see some issue with why Sterling was not disciplined earlier.

The NBA is a very racially diverse league––one where racism in any form is simply inexcusable. Donald Sterling does not belong to the league, but why is telling his girlfriend not to put pictures of herself with black men in private worse than the housing discrimination that Sterling was convicted of in 2006? Why is Sterling’s being a bigot an issue now but not when Elgin Baylor, an NBA legend, sued the Clippers for racial discrimination almost ten years ago?

When the tapes surfaced on TMZ, the whole world seemed then and there to decide that Sterling should be out of the league. Social media exploded from players to fans to coaches. People called for players to be let out of their contracts and to boycott the playoffs.

Now, the players didn’t boycott and no one was released from their contracts, and the players responded in what I feel is the most appropriate manner possible. By turning their warmup shirts inside out to obscure their team name, they made public notice that they strongly disagreed with Sterling’s comments.

At the end of the day, the Clippers players don’t play for Sterling, they play for each other, for the city of Los Angeles and themselves. By not boycotting the game, and forcing the league to discipline them even though the league felt his actions were despicable as well, the Clippers were able to be the better people and send a clear message.

The league had no choice but to ban Sterling. The 29 other owners will presumably vote for him to be forced to sell in the next few weeks. Reports surfaced that anything short of a lifetime ban would have lead to boycott of the playoffs.

Silver did what was necessary to save the NBA in one of the most exciting playoffs ever, and at the same time rid the public sphere of one more bigot. My problem is the timing and the cause.

Sterling’s recent racist comments are far less heinous than his history of racist actions. If the NBA is going to really show that it doesn’t tolerate racism, it needs to take a tougher stand and examine institutional racism that may be less publicized than Sterling’s juicy sound bite, but is far more problematic for the league and its players.

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