Adam Silver must have thought that TMZ recording sounded like bells, because I’m sure someone like him must’ve been thrilled that the witch had finally hung himself on tape.
Let me start with this: I approve of Sterling’s departure from the NBA. I hope the legal fallout isn’t too much of a distraction for the league, and I hope Sterling gets his shoes, shirt, and hat taken by whichever courthouse will have him. It’s only just that an asshole as deep as Sterling deserves to be fucked as hard as reality will allow.
But Donald Sterling didn’t lose the Clippers because he was caught behaving like a racist bigot who dreams of plantations. Donald Sterling lost the Clippers because he was caught behaving like a racist bigot who dreams of plantations at the wrong time.
It’s not like Donald Sterling is tactful enough to prevent his racism from coming out. The man is a windbag who couldn’t talk his way out of a traffic stop from a mall cop. The fact that he’s a racist is not lost on those who’ve followed basketball in the last few decades. This is why I agree with Bomani Jones and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when they expressed cynicism towards the mass outrage of Sterling’s comments. This man has been a documented piece of shit for years.
So why now? Why take him down after a TMZ leak? Why not after he settled for over 2.75 mil in one of the largest housing discrimination settlements in history (no skin off his back, the insurers picked up his tab). Why not after he told Elgin Baylor, his then GM, he wanted a team of “poor Southern black boys with a Caucasian coach”?
Like in love, this situation is all about timing. Since the Clippers were a laughingstock of a team, one that has the lowest winning percentage out of any of the major four sports during Sterling’s tenure, Sterling’s rants were brushed away as a consequence of the overall suck that was attributed to anything Clippers-related.
The extent of the outrage would be as thus: “Of course the Clippers suck, Sterling’s an asshole and a terrible owner. Of course he’d be racist, he’s an asshole.” It’s a flippant thought that doesn’t take hold of your mind, it’s something that “makes sense” and therefore gets filed away in the back corner of your mind.
Enter Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Now the Clippers are winning, title contenders even. Nobody seemed to remember or care that Sterling = Asshole because, well, winning cures everything. Nobody paid any mind to the Clippers until they started to win, which might explain why nobody bothered to remember that this guy took active pleasure in owning Black and Brown people as commodities.
Then V. Stiviano re-exposes Donald Sterling as the racist bogeyman who signs a lot of multi-million dollar checks for a team and staff of mostly Black people. Suddenly we all do the math, realize that when you solve for Sterling, you come out with a racist asshole. Racist assholes aren’t supposed to own something so valuable as a winning NBA franchise. Afterwards, we all start calling for his head on a pike (which, credit to Adam Silver, he duly delivered with expedited shipping).
Ta-Nehisi Coates mentions that the fault of Sterling was that he was of such a lower class of racist, a blowhard bigot who doesn’t bother to filter his discriminatory practices, the lack of elegance is what really got to us. I loved his take and I’d agree with him more if Sterling had any elegance to begin with.
The largest question to me is why this man was allowed to act in such a way with impunity while enjoying the trappings of a billion dollar boys club that is the Board of Governers. A league as image-conscious as the NBA should’ve had an exit plan for this jerkoff way before this TMZ shit went down. The only takeaway I get from this is that someone like Sterling can enjoy what he’s enjoyed as long as he doesn’t fuck up at the wrong time.
I want to believe in karma, and that it will touch upon those who justly deserve its ribbed-for-your-pleasure brand of justice. But I look at this situation, and I only see that it took an all-too-rare perfect storm to finally oust one of the most despicable racists in professional sports since Marge Schott.
That’s the problem I have with this whole situation. The recording was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but when it comes to people like Donald Sterling, we shouldn’t have to wait until the camel dies to take motherfuckers like these to task.