29 Apr 2014

LA Clippers owner Sterling fined and banned over ‘racist’ comments

Basketball season for the US may be into the finals, but it’s ending with as much drama off the court as on, in the form of Donald Sterling, the erstwhile owner of the LA Clippers – the city of angels’ other home team.

The alleged recording of his bemoaning to his estranged girlfriend over her keeping company with black players has prompted criticism from all levels of the game.

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Twelve sponsors on Monday said they were pulling out, and Magic Johnson, who owns another professional league team, is apparently prepared to buy Mr Sterling out.

Much commentary then over the fact that he may well come out of this with even more cash to add to his already considerable fortune, given the team he bought for a song is on the up and up, and now way more valuable.

In the spotlight

Talking to basketball types in Washington DC this morning, there was anger at what he’d said but certainly no surprise. He was broadly known to have held those views for many years, but what seems to have changed is that he’s now the owner of an immensely marketable team and he’s suddenly in the spotlight.

The NBA’s options though are limited. When its executive meets on Tuesday, they’re unlikely to be able to do much more than call for an investigation. Supporters of Mr Sterling assert that there’s no proof that it’s his voice on the recording. This being the US, it would be down to the owners of the other teams to expel him from the league. Ironically were he a player, he’d already be out on the basis of the NBA’s moral code.

Player power

But as one basketball insider told me this morning, what are you going to do – send an 81 year old on diversity training? His advice? For Mr Sterling to create a fund to support African-American minorities access to housing or sport. That, he says, would be the most just outcome anyone could expect.

It’s not exactly the equivalent to the banana campaign in European football, but America is biting back as best it can.

The LA Clippers have already cast down their shirts onto the court at the start of their weekend game, and it will most likely be down to player power as to what happens next.

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One reader comment

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    What this demonstrates is what sensible people have known all along, what Gore Vidal called “America’s dirty little secrets.”

    They are:

    1. The USA is as class-ridden a society as any other, however much it denies it.

    2. Racism in institutionalised in the USA as it is in no other nation. The country was founded on it and continues to exist on it. Arguably it cannot exist without it. The “melting pot” is a myth.

    Small wonder John Freeman once said of that unhappy country, “Their souls are mortgaged to their psychiatrists.”

    What kind of national identity requires its leaders to wear tin lapel badges of its flag? How insecure can such a nation be? Why be surprised when it is turned into an openly aggressive garrison state that simply will not leave other nations alone?

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