Eyes Wide Shut: The Donald Sterling Saga

Los Angeles Clippers Owner Donald Sterling (Courtesy ABCNews.com)

Guest-writer Tony Garcia submits his second article for SPT - an editorial on the current controversy surrounding Donald Sterling and his comments. Here's Tony...

I didn't get a chance to drive past the Staples Center today because I had to work. Oh… and I also don't live in Los Angeles anymore. In fact, I live over a thousand miles away. Tough break for me I suppose. Outside of Los Angeles though, the LA Clippers have been at the center of the sports universe for the last three days. Only this time I'm not sure they want to be. Instead of concentrating on playoff basketball everyone from Coach Doc Rivers to the players have been distracted by the sideshow created by their owner, Donald Sterling. 

In case you missed it, Donald Sterling is in some piping hot water right now, and quite possibly deserved. Over the weekend TMZ released an audio file where Sterling spews all kinds of hot garbage about "blacks" being brought to "his games." The audio itself is arduous, boring and at times, incoherent. If I were going to write a cliff notes version of said tape, it would be transcribed like so:

Sterling: I'm rich. I'm Jewish. I'm an old school racist. Blacks aren't allowed at my games.


Since my transcribing skills aren't what they used to be, I implore you all to check out the audio for yourselves. When I listened to it in its entirety I was shocked, appalled and generally confused (Editor Troy's Note: Me too… much of it is nonsensical). There was also a bit of sympathy somewhere in there. Not so much for Sterling but just for the situation in general. How can we, in the year 2014, still be dealing with racist issues like this? Or better yet, why are we dealing with racist issues like this? 

So I looked into this Sterling cat. Thanks Google. Now I know too much about someone I've never even heard of before Saturday morning. I take that back…I have heard of Donald Sterling. I knew that he was considered a horrible owner and owned one of the worst teams in sports. I'm talking pre CP3, Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin days. The current Clippers team actually isn't that bad. #BasketballAnalysis

In my research I came across a few interesting things about Mr Sterling. Turns out he owns a lot of rental properties in or around the LA area. One thing that just popped out at me for some reason, not sure why… (sarcasm)… is that the US Department of Justice sued Sterling for housing discrimination after he made statements against renting to Latino and African-American tenants. Hmmm…

Then in 2009, Elgin Baylor, who is an NBA Hall of Famer that was also the general manager of the Clippers from 1986-2008, filed a civil lawsuit against the Clippers organization for wrongful termination. In Baylor's statements to authorities he described Sterling's business practices like a "vision of a Southern plantation type structure…poor black kids from the South playing for a white coach." I'm kind of sensing a trend here.

Reading all of that led to even more questions. If all of this were true, why wouldn't this guy, this owner, this supposed diplomat of the NBA, be questioned before any of this happened? How could the then commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, let any of this go on without even batting an eye? To me the red flags were there well before TMZ released those tapes. The NBA just chose to close their eyes on the matter. It's a damn shame it had to reach this point but unfortunately in order for there to be some justice, something like this had to happen. 

So what about some answers? The story doesn't end with the old rich white man just riding off into the sunset off of Santa Monica Pier while still owning the team, does it? Short answer, no. Lord no. Hell no.

I mentioned the name David Stern above. Thankfully he is now former commissioner David Stern. He retired literally a couple months ago. Just in time if you ask me. Enter new NBA commissioner Adam Silver. He's handed a pretty bad situation here and had to react pretty quickly. Word around the hoops world was the entire NBA Players Association was prepared to protest tonight's playoff games and stage a "walk-off". No, I'm not talking about a Zoolander/Hansel classic walk off. I'm talking about the players leaving the court during the playoffs, the NBA's biggest stage. The domino effect that would've had would've been quite strong when you consider the fans into the equation. Imagine spending your hard earned dollars on going to an already over-priced game only to see the players walk off. 

So Adam Silver had a sticky situation on his hands but boy did he step up to the plate and knock it out of the park. The only walk-off today was a walk-off grand slam off the bat of Adam Silver. When I woke up today I didn't expect sports history to be made. I also didn't expect to type so many words about basketball, a sport I generally have less interest in out of the "big 4" sports. What Adam Silver did today should be applauded and will be talked about in the pantheon of sports history forever. 

After the NBA's investigation of this matter, Silver imposed a lifetime ban from the game of basketball on Donald Sterling. On top of that, Sterling was slapped with a $2.5 million fine, which is the maximum fine amount. Effective immediately. In a matter of days Sterling went from owning the LA Clippers to clipping coupons out of LA newspapers. Just like that. Swift justice. Sterling can't attend NBA games or practices. He may not be present at the Clippers facilities. He can no longer make any decisions regarding the team. Banned. For life.

What's next in all this is the eventual sale of the team. Silver has urged the Board of Governors (the other 29 owners of NBA franchises) to "exercise its authority to force the sale of the team." All that means is this thing is pretty much over for Sterling. No owner of another team will vote for Sterling because this has already reached the point of no return. Any owner that isn't with the commish will face backlash from their own players, coaches and fans. This is a done deal.

What amazed me today wasn't the decision of Silver but the counter-argument some people were making that were in favor of Sterling. You know those people. They're the "first amendment" people. Freedom of Speech. You can hide behind that all you'd like. It's your right. Sterling made his thinking known and will now lose because of it. 

There's no room for racism or bigotry in today's society. Sports always has and will continue to play a major role in climbing the barriers of racism. As we all get older it will be nice to be rid of the "Southern plantation owner" mentality. Donald Sterling grew up in different times than you and I did, but that doesn't make his views right. The good ol' boy network of old-time thinking took a major hit today and for that we should be happy. Thanks for listening.

Posted on April 30, 2014 and filed under Sports.