NBA Commissioner Adam Silver got it right by banning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life from the league after his remarks about blacks created widespread outrage.
Sterling’s banned from attending Clippers’ games and practices. He’s banned from the Clippers’ facility and from making any team or personnel decisions. He’s banned from attending the NBA Board of Governors’ meetings or any league activity. He was fined $2.5 million, the most allowed under the NBA’s Constitution. Silver also said he would urge NBA owners and the Board of Governors to force Sterling to sell the team, which he bought in 1981.
“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver said, adding the NBA’s investigation and Sterling confirmed it was the owner’s voice on the controversial phone call where the racist remarks were made. “That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage. Sentiments of this kind are contrary to principle of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse multicultural and multiethnic league.”
Silver took everything he could from Sterling, who now owns the Clippers in name only.
But Sterling’s rant is part of a much bigger picture, as it shows racism remains prevalent in sports. No matter the stance sports takes, racism keeps rearing its ugly head.
What Sterling said may not be worse than any racial remarks that have been said through the years but that would be like arguing cancer is a worse disease than AIDS.
Racism should have no part in sports, except it does. It’s a part of society we wish would go away, but we know it never will. It’s like crime – something we never want to happen, but know it’s just a matter of time until a bloodied body is found on the street. We just hope we’re not the victim.
Sterling’s words are just the latest in a long string of racist comments that never seems to end.
How is Sterling any different from when the late Marge Schott, who called Eric Davis and Dave Parker her “million-dollar [n-word]” in February 1993 when she owned the Reds? She said she was joking. Racism isn’t funny.
Eagles receiver Riley Cooper said “I will fight every [n-word] here” at a security guard while attending a Kenny Chesney concert in June 2013. His punishment? He couldn’t participate in practice. He said he got fined “a good amount of money.” He attended counseling. But after apologizing publically, he was good on the field – so good he was rewarded with a five-year, $25 million deal. Apparently, it doesn’t really hurt to use the n-word, as long as you can go out and post 835 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.
And what about Don Imus calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “some nappy-headed hoes” in April 2007? He lost his job, but he got it back.
It’s up to us – sports fans, society, human beings – to determine how long Sterling, a guy who was about to receive his second award from the NAACP before he blasted blacks, is punished.
But based on history, those punishments vary greatly, as the court of public opinion make some offenders pay dearly, while others get a slap on the wrist.
Shaquille O’Neal skewered Sterling like a shish kabob on TV. But let’s not get amnesia. Remember what O’Neal, who had recently received an NAACP Young Leaders Award, said about the Houston Rockets’ Chinese center Yao Ming in December 2002? “Tell Yao Ming, ‘Ching chong yang, wah, ah soh.’”
What’s worse? Saying something racist about an entire ethnic group or directing it toward one person? Racism is racism is racism.
But at least O’Neal apologized.
Fuzzy Zoeller apologized, too. But apologies aren’t panaceas; they don’t cure everything. They simply attempt to clean a stain, which is often permanent.
When I think of Zoeller, a two-time major champion, I think of what he said after Tiger Woods dominated The Masters in 1997.
“You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it? Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”
It still sounds just as bad as it did 17 years ago.
And 17 years from now, what Greek track star Voula Papachristou tweeted in July 2012 will be just bad.
“With so many Africans in Greece… the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!”
The Greek Olympic Committee prohibited her from competing in the London Games because her comments were against the Olympic spirit.
Not to mention the human spirit..
Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson credited slavery, in part, for helping him win four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships.
“All my life I believed I became an athlete through my own determination, but it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations,” he said in 2012. “Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me – I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.”
Is that offensive? What if a Caucasian said slavery benefitted blacks? He would be…oh wait.
“The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way – because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs. This goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trading, the owner – the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.”
Who said that on NFL Today on Jan. 16, 1988?
Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder.
He was fired by CBS.
But John Rocker didn’t lose his job – just a 14-day suspension and a $500 fine for his derogatory comments about homosexuals, minorities and foreigners in Sports Illustrated in December 1999.
“I would retire first [before playing for a New York team]. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”
“The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. I’m not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”
The question I have is: How is Rocker still in this country?
It remains to be seen if Sterling will continue to own the Clippers, who have evolved into a cause just as much as a team. But if Sterling wants – or is forced out – of the NBA, I have someone he can call: Don “Moose” Lewis.
In January 2010, Lewis announced he wanted to start the All-American Basketball Alliance, a 12-team league consisting only of Caucasian players because Lewis claimed he didn’t “hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like.”
Sterling would feel right at home.
Just as long as players don’t bring African Americans to games.