Tuesday, April 29, 2014



Hey, don't get me wrong, I was thrilled, ecstatic even when I heard the news that  NBA Commissioner Adam Silver dropped the hammer on the white supremacist known as Donald Sterling.   The owner of the NBA Clippers has been banned for life from associating with the Clippers and the NBA, and fined the maximum of $2.5 million. In addition, commissioner Adam Silver said he has asked the Board of Governors to force a sale of the Clippers.  Silver has only been on the job for a few months.


Should have been done long ago (and why, in the name of God, was the NAACP actually getting ready to give this guy an award).

You do wonder where everyone has been looking until now.  We're talking about a guy who  has been sued twice for housing discrimination.  Back in 2009 Sterling   agreed to pay a record $2.725 million to settle allegations that he discriminated against African Americans, Hispanics and families with children at scores of apartment buildings he owns in and around Los Angeles.

We should also recall that  according to then-GM Paul Phipps, during an airport meeting with Rollie Massimino—a potential candidate to replace the fired Paul Silas as head coach—Donald Sterling asked the Villanova coach: "I wanna know why you think you can coach these niggers."   Massimino told Phipps he began screaming at Sterling and swore he’d rather die than become coach of the Clippers.

It goes on.  It went on.  ESPN, The Magazine did a little piece on Sterling a while back. Here are a few of the highlights as noted on Deadspin:

"JUST EVICT THE BITCH." It was 2002, and Donald Sterling was talking to Sumner Davenport, one of his four top property supervisors, about a tenant at the Ardmore Apartments. Already the largest landowner in Beverly Hills, Sterling had recently acquired the Ardmore as part of his move to extend his real estate empire eastward toward Koreatown and downtown LA. As he did, Sterling "wanted tenants that fit his image," according to testimony Davenport gave in a discrimination lawsuit brought against Sterling in 2003 by 19 tenants and the nonprofit Housing Rights Center.
Cultivating his image, Davenport said, meant no blacks, no Mexican-Americans, no children (whom Sterling called "brats") and no government-housing-subsidy recipients as tenants. So according to the testimony of tenants, Sterling employees made life difficult for residents in some of his new buildings. They refused rent checks, then accused renters of nonpayment. They refused to do repairs for black tenants and harassed them with surprise inspections, threatening residents with eviction for alleged violations of building rules.
When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to Davenport. "That's because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they're not clean," he said, according to Davenport's testimony. "And it's because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day."He added: "So we have to get them out of here." Shortly after, construction work caused a serious leak at the complex. When Davenport surveyed the damage, she found an elderly woman, Kandynce Jones, wading through several inches of water in Apartment 121. Jones was paralyzed on the right side and legally blind. She took medication for high blood pressure and to thin a clot in her leg. Still, she was remarkably cheerful, showing Davenport pictures of her children, even as some of her belongings floated around her.
Davenport reported what she saw to Sterling, and according to her testimony, he asked: "Is she one of those black people that stink?" When Davenport told Sterling that Jones wanted to be reimbursed for the water damage and compensated for her ruined property, he replied: "I am not going to do that. Just evict the bitch."
Repairs never came. The shower stopped working, and the toilet wouldn't flush; Jones needed to use a plunger and disposed of waste tissue in bags. Kandynce Jones departed the home she loved but that caused her so much grief when she passed away, on July 21, 2003, at age 67.
He wasn't just horrible with his tenants. He demeaned women, too.
But it's the people who work for Sterling and live in his buildings who say they bear the worst of his unconventional behavior. For years he has run semianonymous ads (crude design jobs he reportedly mocks up himself) seeking "hostesses" for Clippers events and his private parties. In a Times ad last summer, Sterling's company solicited "attractive females" to bring a résumé and photo to his address, where employees reviewed their looks. Some of the women who have gone through this process found it humiliating. "Working for Donald Sterling was the most demoralizing, dehumanizing experience of my life," says a hostess from the 1990s who says she helped set up "cattle calls" to find other women to work the job. "He asked me for seminude photos and made it clear he wanted more. He is smart and clever but manipulative. When I didn't give him what he wanted, he looked at me with distaste. His smile was so empty."
In 1996, a former employee named Christine Jaksy sued Sterling for sexual harassment. The two sides reached a confidential settlement, and Jaksy, now an artist in Chicago, says, "The matter has been resolved." But The Magazine has obtained records of that case, and according to testimony Jaksy gave under oath, Sterling touched her in ways that made her uncomfortable and asked her to visit friends of his for sex. Sterling also repeatedly ordered her to find massage therapists to service him sexually, telling her, "I want someone who will, you know, let me put it in or who [will] suck on it."
Sterling's testimony in another case, this one involving former associate Alexandra Castro, underscores his aggressiveness with women. When Castro, whom Sterling met in Las Vegas at Al Davis' birthday party over Fourth of July weekend in 1999, visited his Beverly Hills office, Sterling later stated under oath that she brought a lab report proving she was HIV-negative, freeing him to continue having unprotected sex with his wife. "The woman wanted sex everywhere," Sterling said. "In the alley, in her car, in the elevator, in the upstairs seventh floor, in the bathroom." And he paid her for it. "Everytime she provided sex she got $500," he testified in 2003. "At the end of every week or at the end of two weeks, we would figure [it] out, and I would, perhaps, pay her then."
"When you pay a woman for sex, you are not together with her," he further testified. "You're paying her for a few moments to use her body for sex. Is it clear? Is it clear?"
Sterling isn't a total racist, to be sure. He has a fine appreciation for Asian culture, for one thing.
"He would tell me that I needed to learn the ‘Asian way' from his younger girls because they knew how to please him," Davenport testified in 2004. Davenport also stated: "If I made a mistake, I needed to stand at my desk and bow my head and say, ‘I'm sorry, Mr. Sterling. I'm sorry I disappointed you. I'll try to do better.' "
Sterling's preference for Asians extended to the people he wanted in his buildings. "I like Korean employees and I like Korean tenants," he told Dean Segal, chief engineer at a Sterling property called the Mark Wilshire Tower Apartments, according to testimony Segal gave in the Housing Rights Center case. And Davenport testified that Sterling told her, "I don't have to spend any more money on them, they will take whatever conditions I give them and still pay the rent … so I'm going to keep buying in Koreatown."
But Mexican culture? Certainly not.
Raymond Henson, head of security at the building, who was standing outside the room, heard what happened next. Sterling, according to Henson's 2004 sworn statement, once again expressed his distaste for Mexicans as tenants, saying, "I don't like Mexican men because they smoke, drink and just hang around the house."

Again, why were we still dealing with this guy as late as yesterday?

I'd suggest a glance at the book Forty Million Dollar Slaves by William C. Rhoden.  While the book wasn't as good as I hoped it would be, its author as written on Sports in Black and White effectively:

... continually compares the sports world to the plantation systems of the 19th century, asserting that white owners remain in control of their black “slaves” and derive profit from their labor.

John Garrison Marks adds on the Rice website:

 In the book, Rhoden argues that from the time sports were introduced to plantations in the antebellum South through the present, black athletes have been exploited and denied a place within the power structure of American athletics.  Whenever black athletes are perceived to have gained too much power or to pose a threat to white cultural values, the rules are changed to detriment of blacks.  In essence, the rules of modern athletics are rigged against black athletes to ensure that they are barred from positions of power.

Although basketball and the NBA are steeped in black culture, and while 80% of  NBA players are African-American, the league is no different in some ways than any other professional sports league.

As Jerod Mustaf writes at Sportsblog.com,

 While the NBA is the most diverse professional sports league in the world, the culture of NBA ownership is relatively intact. The fact remains that in 68 years, there is still only one majority-minority owner in the NBA and he(MJ) was only able to purchase from another minority during a 'fire sale'. The question for the owners who have been largely silent on the Sterling matter, is whether they are also part of the culture often mentioned on the Sterling recordings, and is this the investigation that Adam Silver was referring that he would (did?) initiate.  

Josh Levin at Slate makes a direct connection to Sterling and writes:

Elgin Baylor, the Clippers’ longtime general manager, laid out Sterling’s plantation mindset in a 2009 employment discrimination lawsuit. Baylor, an African-American,accused Sterling of saying he “wanted the Clippers team to be composed of ‘poor black boys from the South’ and a white head coach.” (In the years hence, Sterling did bring in Doc Rivers to coach the team, so I guess that’s some kind of progress.) Baylor also alleged that Sterling told Clippers draft pick Danny Manning, in the presence of David Stern, that he was “offering a lot of money for a poor black kid.” 

Rhoden, by the way, does not exempt the vast majority of players, African American sports figures, from criticism.  Where have they been he asks?  How have they become so divorced from their own communities?  Rhoden answers the question in an interesting manner:

"Though integration was a major pivot in the history of the black athlete, it was not for the positive reasons we so often hear about. Integration fixed in place myriad problems: a destructive power dynamic between black talent and white ownership; a chronic psychological burden for black athletes, who had to constantly prove their worth; disconnection of the athlete from his or her community; and the emergence of the apolitical black athlete, who had to be careful what he or she said or stood for, so as not to offend white paymasters. At the same time it destroyed an autonomous zone of black industry, practically eliminating every black person involved in sports -- coaches, owners, trainers, accountants, lawyers, secretaries and so on -- except the precious on-field talent."
I will conclude this with a bit from the site US Slave (citing Sports Illustrated as a source):

Rhoden concludes his mostly bleak but profoundly educational survey with a manifesto. "Winning means ownership: owning teams, owning networks, owning the means of communication, and owning our collective image," he writes. He also proposes the creation of "an association of black professional athletes [that] would galvanize the power of a rich past and a prosperous present and figure out a plan for the future." It remains to be seen how many $40 million slaves will so rise, even in semi-revolt.

The following is from Racism Review.

Donald Sterling is “a Racist”: Feel Better Now?

On April 25th, 2014, TMZ released an audio recording of Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers chiding his girlfriend for posting photos of herself with Magic Johnson on “The Instagram.” Pleading with her that she can spend her whole life with black people as long as it’s in private and she doesn’t bring them to his game, his tirade sounds like something from another, earlier, less enlightened period of U.S. history. The Internet lit up with calls for Sterling’s head: Clippers players should go on strike and we should boycott the NBA. Prominent musicians and artists spoke out against him and the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP pulled the Lifetime Achievement Award he was slated to receive. Even President Obama, who has been conspicuously silent on issues of race commented on the issue.
Almost all of the commentary has treated Donald Sterling as an anomaly, as an aberration—a throwback to Jim Crow racism. Even President Obama, who, in his response said, “The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination,” falls into this trap. Assuming that Sterling’s comments represent the normally silent and marginal remains of a bygone era that will “percolate up every so often,” is either a misunderstanding of contemporary race relations, or a disingenuous attempt to mischaracterize them.
In reality, we live in a society that is fundamentally structured by race and characterized by persistent racial inequality. Many social scientists have argued that contemporary racism is more subtle, institutionally embedded, and behind the scenes, than the in-your-face, “Negroes need not apply”, racism of the Jim Crow era. Therefore, when “old-fashioned” racism rears its ugly head, scholars and pundits alike seem shocked, or at least disgusted. Incidents like the release of Sterling’s openly racially hostile comments to his girlfriend, Paula Deen’s admission that she uses the n-word and the discrimination suit against her, and the racist comments of Nevada rancher Clive Bundy who suggests African Americans were better off a slaves than they are today, all become the stuff of headlines, media and scholars alike rush to comment and denounce the remaining racist expressions of a bygone era.
We would like to first of all suggest that attitudes like Sterling’s are not rare. Rather, they offered a glimpse into a backstage that many whites witness but rarely speak of. This is the backstage where white daughters are forbidden to date black boys, black jokes are still funny, and private dinner table conversations include the casual use of racial epithets. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the media spectacle around incidents like this create a racist boogey man that average white people can point the finger at, a tactic that serves to tacitly define “racism,” provides white people with a deviant racist other from which they can disassociate, and simultaneously obscures the multiple ways in which whites participate in color-blind and institutionalized racism.
The self-righteous indignation that the media has shown and that is filling up many Facebook and Twitter feeds in the last couple days about Donald Sterling says, “look, he’s the real racist.” Sterling offers well-meaning liberal white people an opportunity to feel good about themselves for actively denouncing the racist, and gives them an example of “real racism” that they can point to and distance themselves from. As a result, the Sterling incident diverts the attention away from the more pernicious aspects of structural racism; the racism that is embedded in the institutions we all interact in, and shapes the life chances and lived daily lives of people of color.
So while Donald Sterling will face the consequences of his speech, as we all must, we cannot let this occasion pass without pointing out that, for one, he is not a lone aberration. He does not represent a “vestige” or a left over “legacy” of slavery and segregation. On the contrary, Donald Sterling is much more representative than we might like to think. But more than this, Donald Sterling does not let the rest of us off the hook. Racism is not simply a set of attitudes to which one can subscribe or not. Rather, racism works in and through all social institutions. So while we point the finger at Sterling, let us also bring the same critical interrogation to all of the social, political, and economic forces that perpetuate racial inequality. Let this also be an opportunity to take responsibility for the less obvious ways that even well-meaning white people engage in colorblind racism and benefit from the status quo subjugation of people of color through inaction.

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