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.
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.
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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