Monday, April 28, 2014

Donald Sterling puts both feet in his mouth, chews vigorously...

Welcome to the 19th century.

Wait. What? It's the 21st century? How can you tell, considering what Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is alleged to have said - on tape - to V. Stiviano, his girlfriend/mistress/archivist (that's her claim, anyway)/whatever function she has in his life.

Yes. I know. I've posted here before deploring the depth in which things that the wealthy and famous do and say are reported in the media. But sometimes you've just got to stop and say, "What the hell?" and talk about something stupid that has been done or said. This is one of those times.

For those of you who haven't been keeping up, gossipmongers TMZ reported on Friday that Sterling had been taped making statements that were, to say the least, racist. Along with the report, they released a portion of the tape, in which a voice purported to be Sterling's, said things that you might expect would have come out of the mouth of a plantation owner in the Old South before the Civil War. While requesting that the woman he was talking to not bring African Americans with her to Clippers games and not post pictures of them on her Instagram account Sterling, who has not denied that it is his voice on the tape, said of the players on his team, the majority of whom are African Americans, "I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses." Not that they earn their salaries, but that he supports them and gives them things, apparently out of what he considers the goodness of his heart.

None of this is apparently a surprise to anyone who knows Sterling. The reporting I've been hearing - and I've been hearing a lot of reporting on the story, since it is local to my area - is that it has long been known that Sterling is a bigot.

Sterling (or whoever it is on the tape), who is Jewish, also makes statements on the tape asserting the belief that what he calls "Black Jews" are inferior to "White Jews". I think it is interesting that around this whole discussion, Stiviano makes the very good point that because he is Jewish, he should understand discrimination and not indulge in it. Which also brings up the point that, as the owner of real estate, Sterling is known to have discriminated against minorities and families with children - he settled a civil case for doing those things for nearly $3 million in 2009. He has also been accused of age discrimination in hiring and firing practices, although that suit was not successful.

Clearly, Donald Sterling is not a nice man. The National Basketball Association is investigating his alleged statements, and many people both inside and outside the basketball community have called for his ownership of the team to be stripped from him. I'm not sure that is legally possible, although it may be that the NBA has some sort of contractual obligation on the part of team owners not to do or say things that are embarrassing to the organization - which is what this is, at the very least, considering that the majority of NBA players are African-American.

I'm fine with "ignorant folks" as President Obama put it in a statement regarding the situation, opening their mouths and exposing their own ignorance. It lets me know who to stay away from, and whose products not to buy - and which team's games not to patronize. But, as the political and religious Right are so fond of saying (and this may be the one instance in which I agree with them), free speech is not necessarily free of consequences. And I suspect that Sterling is going to be ostracized for the things he has allegedly said, for the attitudes he has expressed, both within the basketball community and in the larger community.

I think he has no one to blame but himself.

What has fascinated me the most as this story has been reported in the media here in Los Angeles, is all the footage of Sterling, sitting at games with this sort of fake smile on his face, as if it hurts him so much to be in the arena with all the peons, as if he feels himself so superior to the rest of the world. I believe that this attitude has finally come around to bite him in the ass, not the least because one of the photos that Sterling was complaining about Stiviano posting was of her with former basketball player and current part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team Ervin "Magic" Johnson. It isn't going to escape notice when someone (Sterling) says that they don't want someone to "broadcast" or "promote" that the other person (Stiviano, in this case) is associating with him.

Honestly? I don't care what Sterling thinks. People are allowed to have whatever attitudes they want, no matter how politically and socially unacceptable they are. But when someone is so vocally disdainful of people, at some point people who don't hold those attitudes are going to push back. And that's them, exercising their free speech. Like when Magic Johnson posted on Twitter that he will not go to any more Clippers games as long as Sterling owns the team.

Goodness knows, I can't afford to go to basketball games. If I could, though, I certainly wouldn't attend any Clippers games, either, as long as Sterling owns the team.

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