Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s covert and overt racism is nothing new to the NBA. In fact, The writing has been on the wall for years, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s historic punishment simply serves as performative sanctimony for those oblivious to the real impacts of racism.
In 2006, ESPN’s Bomani Jones wrote a column titled “Sterling’s Racism Should Be News,” and not much fanfare was made. The piece detailed Sterling’s settlements with the Department of Justice over housing discrimination, and the fact that none of it qualified as “big news” in the sports world. There have been plenty of other instances of Sterling’s racism, too.
Cut to Sunday, when audio of a racially charged conversation between Sterling and a woman named V. Stiviano was released by TMZ (Stiviano maintains she did not leak the tape). Jones stood tall, essentially saying, “I tried to tell you.”
Silver took quick and decisive action, banning Sterling for life from all activities surrounding the NBA, and fining Sterling $2.5 million, the maximum allowable by the NBA’s constitution. But Silver’s decision wasn’t solely based off of the conversation Sterling had in private, which happened to go public, and at the end of the day, that isn’t the real issue at hand.
Jones appeared on Dan Le Batard’s Miami-based radio show on Tuesday and hit the nail on the head in his assessment of Sterling’s actions, and those who failed to pay attention to them — including the NBA, the media, fans and players — before TMZ picked up the most recent, salacious tidbit.
The story isn’t about the fact that Stiviano recorded the conversation (Sterling knew it was being recorded), or that he was likely her “sugar daddy.” The story isn’t about the fact that a private conversation was made public, and it’s certainly not about the fact that an 80-year-old man simply made a few off-color comments.
“This is the only opportunity that a lot of people have where they feel comfortable within their souls, within their psyches to stand against racism,” Jones said on the ESPN Radio show. “Cause it’s so easy to do it on this right here and it’s so scandalous.”
Silver’s punishment for Sterling was historic for the NBA, but doesn’t really do much to to change the harmful things Sterling has done over the years, as Jones broke down on his 10-minute spot on Le Batard’s show.
There is no punishment that Silver can dole out that would work to fix the issue, but he had to do something. Banning Sterling didn’t violate Sterling’s First Amendment rights, either. Sterling, by all means, has the right to be a bigot, and the right to say what he wants.
He doesn’t have the right to be an NBA owner.
As part of an exclusive club with its own set of bylaws and a not-so-secret constitution, Sterling, and every other owner, is bound to those expectations or he risks getting kicked out of the club. Especially when his words and actions have real-world consequences.
Left photo via Instagram/@Bomani_Jones