It’s old news now: LA Clippers owner Donald Serling was recorded – by his mixed-race mistress, no less – saying some racist comments. Those comments became public over the weekend and some swift justice was administered by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Good for Silver, good for the NBA, good for everyone. Well. Except for Donald Sterling who was fined $2.5 million, banned for life from the NBA, and is essentially going to be forced to sell his team.
Some have argued that a punishment this big sets a dangerous precedent; that it was sort of a rush-to-judgement. Maybe, though that’s not my issue here.
Here is my dilemma; my dichotomy of my thoughts if you will… (how’s that for trying to sound smarter than I really am?)One the one hand, I’m pissed off. What Sterling said was obviously wrong, racist, hate-filled, etc. Though I really could give two-shits about the NBA in general, I certainly felt myself rallying around those who were calling for boycotts of playoff games and certainly a severe punishment for Sterling. The guy’s a scumbag and deserved the harshest penalty allowed by the league.
When asked what he would do if he played for the Clippers and was scheduled to play Golden State that day, former NBA player and current ESPN Analyst Jalen Rose said that he would hug each of his teammates, look them in the eye, tell them he loved them, but that he wouldn’t play – he couldn’t play – playoffs or not. That’s a strong statement for sure.
And I wholeheartedly agreed.
There were even talks from the players, and not just the Clippers, that if the NBA didn’t step in and if Commissioner Silver didn’t nail Sterling’s balls to the wall – there would be a league wide walk-out of playoff games. Again, good for them! This goes way above the game of basketball, the money involved, TV contracts, traveling logistics, etc.
The more I listened to sports radio, read online stories, tweets, and posts – the more agitated I became.
There’s a part of me that continues to wonder why I’m so mad. Why is this story affecting me as much as it is?
I certainly don’t care about the NBA. In the past two or three seasons, I’ve probably watched a combined total of 20 minutes of NBA action. Being from Chicago, which has a pretty solid Bulls team that gets a lot of media exposure, you’d think I’d care, even if just a little bit, but I really don’t. At best, I keep abreast of the Bulls, Derrick Rose’s selfishness, and the NBA in general, I guess, to remain conversational if needed.
Is part of my dilemma the fact that I’m white and not the target of Sterling’s comments? I’ve only experienced racism, essentially, as an outside observer. Therefore how can I understand how it truly affects someone? I can’t relate to what Jalen Rose felt. Or Doc Rivers (who is black, a former NBA player, and the current Clippers Head Coach).
Those two, and so many others related to this story, have been on the receiving end of racial slurs and discrimination. I have not.
I think the best way to answer all of these questions, really, is to simply know that what Sterling said and how he feels towards blacks is wrong. Maybe it’s a generational thing. He was raised in an era where racism wasn’t considered bad; it was just how it was. Yet times change and attitudes evolve. Unfortunately for Sterling – and for ALL OF US really – he failed to do just that.