Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why Donald Sterling Had to Go

When I first heard the surreptitiously recorded audio of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling imploring his mistress (who happens to be black and Mexican) not to bring "black people" to Clippers games or to publicize her affiliation with them, my first thought did not turn to racism.
My first thought was, here is an old man, with a much younger woman, who is tapping into deeply entrenched stereotypes regarding the prowess and libido of the black man. If the term exists, it appears that Sterling was suffering more from a psychosexual fetish with the black male body in relation to his relationship with his mistress. Not surprising since he owns a team in a league that is composed of nearly 70% black male bodies.
However, as the story unfolded, and articles written by the likes of Bomani Jones, Peter King, and Jamele Hill about Sterlings racially tinged real estate dealings began to resurface, it became clear that Sterling has some deep seeded hatred for racial minorities (Sterling is Jewish btw).
Newly minted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver delivered the harshest blow that the NBA Constitution and by-laws allow - banning Sterling from all NBA related activities for life, and hinting that he will push for the Board of Governors to vote to force Sterling to sell the team. Early indications (along with past behavior) point to a short, but virulent legal fight between Sterling and the league. In the end, the NBA will win, the Clippers franchise will get a new owner, and we will be back on track to achieving the post-racial society that everyone thinks happened in 2008.
The reason that Donald Sterling is no longer welcome in the NBA is not due to race, but to finances. A very small portion of the NBA's multi-billion dollar largess is due to ticket sales and concession. The rest of the pie, and the very existence of the NBA, is predicated on television contracts, advertising and naming rights, and the sell of merchandise. By making the comments that he made, Sterlings alienated the African-American community, and the folks trying to appeal to black people. Although African-Americans fall far behind whites and certain other minorities when it comes to wages, savings, and wealth, African-Americans SPEND a lot of money. If the NBA and its owners did nothing, they would be effectively alienating the largest consumer base for their products. Sterling had to go.
The second piece to the puzzle are the players. As I alluded to earlier, nearly 70% of the athletes in the NBA are black. Anyone who has ever had to deal with labor relations, or work on a  team of any sort, know that a team divided will soon collapse on itself. If the Clippers players refused to play last night's playoff game against the Golden State Warriors, the ripple effect would have permeated throughout the sports world, ending at the bottom of the lint filled pockets of the owners. Long term, players refusing to play for the Clippers franchise would've eventually crippled the team to the point of dissolution, taking a hefty chuck of the value of the 29 other NBA teams with it. Sterling had to go.
Lastly is the way that the audio of Sterlings comments went viral. 30 years ago, the only way that a tape like this would've gotten out is if the FBI was spying on you, you pissed the wrong person off, and the tape got leaked. Now, any citizens is a bonafide contractor for the NSA.
Once the tape was out, the Democrats on the left patted themselves on the back, saying "at least we're not Donald Sterling". Republicans on the right rushed to defend Sterling, defending his right to be ignorant to their xenophobic base. Meanwhile, the vast middle looked on wondering why this is even important. Whether what Sterling had to say is a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights movement can be debated. From a practical business standpoint, the cancer was out there and spreading, and the NBA had to cut the cancer away to keep it from spreading to their other business interest - both foreign and domestic. Sterling had to go.
While, on the face of things, it doesn't sit well with me that a person could lose ownership of their property because they make impolite statements in what is assumed to be privacy, I understand from a business standpoint why Donald Sterling had to be banned from the NBA. Yes, we do have freedom of speech in the United States. However, that doesn't shield you from the consequences of your speech. Just ask anyone who has threatened a public servant. The higher you go, the more you have to lose, and the harsher the consequences look.
What I don't want to happen is for the synchophants on the left to start glad handing each other , like they accomplished something in forcing the ouster of  Donald Sterling that years of protests, litigation, and deaths couldn't bring to Africans in America. The very people on the left that claim to be on the side of black people have served to handicap the independence of African-Americans by casting them children that need protection in perpetuity.
What I don't want to happen is for the right to use this as yet another example of the impending black caliphate that Barack Obama and other black people are trying to usher in here in America. If every right wing nut lost their job and property because they made a bone headed remark, the number of people on public assistance would increase exponentially.
The lesson here is a business lesson and a lesson in living in this connected world.
  1. Once you say something, you can' un-say it.
  2. Always assume that you're being recorded.
  3. If it sounds wrong in your head, it will probably sound worse out loud.
  4. Don't trust your mistress (she is your mistress).
  5. Related to # 4, don't talk bad about black people when your mistress is half black.
  6. In the end, people are going to cover their own ass, so don't be surprised when your friends scatter when you say dumb shit.

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