by John Beacham
Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has been banned from the National Basketball Association for life. He should be. He should also be in jail for his many racist actions, and the Clippers should be seized from him.
If Sterling, who is barred from all NBA related activities, is allowed to sell his team, he could make as much as an estimated $750 million from the sale. That is not justice.
True justice requires a radical restructuring of the NBA. In a league where most of the players are Black and most of the owners and top executives are white, the surest way to eradicate racism is for every NBA team to become property of their respective city and the team’s income to be used to provide living-wage jobs and improve public education and public services in Black communities.
The super-rich white owners, who all buy NBA teams in order to showcase their obscene wealth, are, in fact, completely unnecessary. The case of Donald Sterling forcefully highlights the absurdity of the plantation-style organization of the NBA where rich whites own and profit while Black athletes play at the “service” of the owners.
But it goes even deeper: The Donald Sterling case brings to the light of day how the entire economic and social system of the United States, propped up by everyday racism and sexism, works in the interests of a tiny minority of wealthy people who use bigotry as a primary form of social manipulation and control.
Is Sterling a bad apple?
The much publicized recorded conversation between V. Stiviano and Sterling makes it clear that he is racist and sexist, that he believes he in essence owns his players and that he should own his players because of the color of their skin. He believes he should “own” Stiviano and control the choices she makes, including who she should be seen with and take pictures with. According to Sterling that’s the way things work.
One of the greatest basketball players of all time, Elgin Baylor, who worked as general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers for 22 years, said in a discrimination lawsuit he filed against Sterling that the owner of the Clippers had a “vision of a Southern plantation-type structure” and that Sterling said he wanted the Clippers to be “composed of ‘poor black boys from the South’ and a white head coach.”
Sterling, a billionaire landlord, has a massive record of discrimination and illegal treatment of tenants. According to the Justice Department, in 2009 he paid the largest ever settlement for housing discrimination, $2.76 million.
In another discrimination suit filed against Sterling in 2003, witnesses testified that Sterling explained why he didn’t want to rent to Latinos and Black people. “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building;” “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
And in yet another instance, when one of Sterling’s tenants, an elderly and disabled woman suffered extensive flood damage in her unit caused by construction and asked for reimbursement, Sterling told one of his employees, “Is she one of those black people that stink? I am not going to do that. Just evict the b—.”
We can guarantee with 100 percent certainty that every other NBA owner knew of Sterling’s vile opinions and actions. We can also conclude with 100 percent certainty that his actions were in no way grounds for his removal from their exclusive club. We also know that the entire sports media complex was virtually silent on Sterling’s racism before now.
The only reason the league took action against Sterling at this point is due to the fact that his recorded words, made known to and abhorred by players and the population, would have the effect, absent some form of punishment, of damaging the leagues image and cutting into their profits.
Sterling is not a bad apple. He is the very core. The NBA owners are directly complicit in his racism and criminality. For this, they deserve to have their property taken away and redistributed to the nation’s Black community. In order for racism to be eradicated, racist institutions must face real consequences and the victims of racism must get real justice.
Sign the petition to make the Clippers a community-owned team.