"You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that ... and not to bring them to my games."
That was the line that Los Angeles Clippers' owner said after his girlfriend V. Stiviano posted a photograph of her with former Lakers player Ervin "Magic" Johnson on Instagram. The recording of the statements made by Sterling was obtained by the website TMZ.
This is not the first instance of accusations of racism towards the Clippers owner. Sterling has been sued by the federal government for violating fair housing practices for refusing to rent to minorities in 2006. That suit was settled in 2009 to a sum of $2.725 million. That same year his company also agreed to a settlement regarding a 2003 racial discrimination suit that resulted in a undisclosed payment but it was reported that plaintiff fees totaled $5 million.
Elgin Baylor, a former Clippers executive, brought a wrongful termination suit in February 2009 claiming that Sterling fired him due to his race and age as well as underpaid him. Baylor says that Sterling told him he wanted a team with "poor black boys from the South and a white head coach." As for the pay inequity, the suit points out that head coach Mike Dunleavy was given a four-year, $22 million contract while Baylor, a team executive, had his salary frozen at $350,000 since 2003. The suit also brought to light comments Sterling made during contract negotiations with first overall pick Danny Manning in 1988 where Sterling was believed to have said, "I'm offering a lot of money for a poor black kid." In March 2011, a Los Angeles jury unanimously rejected Baylor's lawsuit.
For many years the Los Angeles Clippers were the butt of jokes in the NBA. While the cross town Lakers celebrated championship victories, the Clippers were victims of poor drafts and lousy front office moves. Since the arrival of Blake Griffin in 2009 and the trade that brought Chris Paul from New Orleans in 2011, the Clippers have been a perennial playoff team in the highly competitive Western Conference.
Right now the Clippers are in the middle of a playoff series with the Golden State Warriors where the best-of-seven series is tied at 2 games apiece.
Prior to Game 4 the Clippers staged a protest of their own as shown by this video.
Clippers players are saying the right thing to not let this distraction affect them. Head Coach Doc Rivers said in an interview regarding his owner's comments:
"Right now, our goals haven’t changed. Our focus is on Golden State, and it’s going to stay on Golden State. … It upsets all of us. There’s not one guy who is happy with this situation. Do you think I want to be talking about this, instead of trying to stop (Golden State player) Steph Curry? I don’t. … We try to keep clutter away from our team. It’s been brought to our team, and it upsets me, and it upsets our team.”
Chris Paul, who is also head of the National Basketball Player Association, issued this statement:
“On behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively. We have asked Mayor Kevin Johnson to expand his responsibilities with the NBPA, to determine our response and our next steps. As players, we owe it to our teams and our fans to keep our focus on our game, the playoffs, and the drive to the Finals.”
In an interview prior to the Miami Heat's Game 3 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Heat player LeBron James said: "There is no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There is no room for him."
LeBron James is one of the many recognizable stars in the NBA today. He is referred to as The King because of his popularity.
Other voices calling for punitive action include Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who played 13 seasons in the NBA. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, "These statements are offensive and despicable and have no place in Los Angeles. I urge the NBA to act swiftly. L.A. fans deserve and demand better."
Michael Jordan, who was the face of the NBA in the 1990s and a team owner himself, addressed Sterling's comment's by saying, "There is no room in the NBA – or anywhere else – for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed…. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level.”
TNT's Inside The NBA panel on Saturday was in consensus that Sterling should face punishment for his comments and that such comments are not welcome in this day and age. Charles Barkley, a former player and is popular because he is unafraid about speaking his mind on a VARIETY of topics, said, "This is the first test for (league commissioner) Adam Silver, because you can't have this guy making statements like that ... (if it's Sterling on the recording), he has to suspend and fine him immediately."
If it is Sterling on the recording, NBA commissioner Adam Silver not only has to suspend and fine Sterling immediately, but he should be banned from the NBA permanently. Given the diverse makeup of NBA players, front office personnel, and their fans, those comments are very upsetting and troubling. Sterling wields a lot of power as an owner on which players he signs, the coaches he hires, and other personnel he employs to handle his team's business.
Imagine if this was a player who said those things. The punishment would be swift and without any question.
Other sports leagues have shown examples of commissioners exercising their authoritative power on players and team employees. National Football League (NFL) commissioner Roger Goodell is known for enforcing the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy. The National Hockey League (NHL) has banned players for periods of time for causing other players severe injuries. The most notable example of a sports league taking action against an owner was in Major League Baseball (MLB).
Marge Schott was the owner of the Cincinnati Reds for 15 years. In November 1992, a lawsuit was brought by Tim Sabo against Schott for wrongful firing made light of statements that she made towards African-Americans, Jews, mothers who worked outside the home, and other ethnic groups. It also brought to the surface a statement she made towards Reds outfielders Eric Davis and Davis Parker where she called them her "million-dollar n------."
As a result, MLB fined her $25,000, made her attend sensitivity training, and stripped her of ownership duties during the 1993 season.
Upon returning to baseball, Schott apparently did not get the message. In May 1996, Schott made comments in support of Adolf Hitler and was banned from baseball for the remainder of the 1996 season and 1997 and 1998 seasons. She finally sold her interest in the Reds in 1999 amid rumors that she was going to be suspended for a third time.
When she died in March 2004, Schott was remembered for being one of the few women owners in professional sports, but the comments she made cast a long shadow over that achievement.
Given Sterling's history, he has been able to get away those comments because no one was listening before and because his teams were never any good. The spotlight is on his team given their success and there is this thing called the Internet. Anything you say will come to the light of day.
Commissioner Silver along with the other 29 NBA owners must listen to The King.
Rightfully so, there is no room for the Donald Sterlings in society today.