Money Can’t Take Away Ignorance

The NBA has been pretty much the top story in the news over the last few days, but unfortunately it is not because of the current playoffs.

It’s because of Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles clippers, who over the weekend had audio released where he asked his girlfriend not to bring black people to Clippers games, and asked her why she would even want to be associated with black people.

It just goes to show that as rich as one can be (he’s reportedly worth $2 billion), your money can’t make you any less ignorant.  I mean, here’s a guy that, if reports are to be believed, has half of his net worth invested in a professional basketball team where a majority of the players that he employs…are black.  Where a big chunk of the fan base that pays money to buy tickets to see his team play, are black.  Where people that buy the jerseys of his teams players…are black.


Thank goodness the NBA came down yesterday and put the hammer down.  He’s been fined a few million dollars and is essentially banned for life.  This means that while he can still own the team (for now), he can’t participate in any day to day activities.  He can’t show up at the games.  He can essentially have nothing to do with the team that he owns.

That’s good, but it’s not good enough.

I would not be surprised if the punishments handed down yesterday were just the first step toward eventually trying to remove him of ownership altogether.  It’s my belief that yesterday’s punishments were simply so that the Clippers players would agree to play the mb-2014-04hoopgame scheduled last night.  It was their first home playoff game since the scandal erupted.  They played a game over the weekend, but it was an away game.  I just couldn’t see a situation where the players on that team would want to go to their home court and play a playoff basketball game with no punishment having come to Sterling.

I believe that the players would have boycotted the game had the punishments not come down.  There’s no way that the NBA would have allowed that.  They had to do something.

But, again, I think that’s the first step.

In my mind, and I’m sure it’s in the minds of others, is that Donald Sterling cannot remain owner of the team. Period.  Even if he’s banned from having anything to do with it, the fact that his name would remain next to the owner title would drive way everyone and everyone.  Consider:

  • Fans – I know many current fans are torn.  They want to support the players but can’t figure out how to cheer for the players while not supporting the organization. Eventually, I think fans would simply leave.
  • Players – What player is ever going to want to play for this organization, knowing that the man that signs your paycheck in some fashion has no problem going on record as being a racist?
  • Sponsors – Over a dozen sponsors of the team have already pulled out, and you’d better believe those that haven’t are probably just waiting for the phone lines to clear before doing so.

In other words, if Donald Sterling remained as owner, everybody would suffer.  Let’s not forget that the NBA is a business, and the idea of losing an entire fan base, millions in sponsorships, and guaranteeing a mediocre product (a concept with which the Clippers were very familiar with anyways for over two decades), it’s all bad for business.  And, I can’t see the NBA allowing it.

I have heard some backlash to the fines, stating that while Sterling’s comments may have been offensive and inappropriate, he was still protected by the First Amendment.  That’s true in that they can’t send him to jail, but when it comes to the business of the NBA, the First Amendment doesn’t cover that.  The NBA is not going to let one of their thirty teams whither up and die, and the current punishments, and what I expect to be the eventual removal of him as an owner, are justifiable from a business perspective.

I have grown up in a world where the Clippers have been nothing but an embarrassment, and that starts and stops with Donald Sterling.  For years, he let the organization mire in mediocrity, making one awful move after another to keep them at or near the bottom of the standings for just about every year.  At some point, he either got smart or lucky enough to actually have a contending team, but as soon as that happens, he’s now gone and managed to screw that up in about as putrid of fashion imaginable.

It has to end. The sooner the better.

I embrace the idea of an NBA where Donald Sterling is no longer part.  The players, the employees, the coaches, the fans, and everybody else involved deserves better than him.  And, it goes to show that having money doesn’t make you any more smart, any more tolerant, any more of a role model.  It doesn’t make you any better of a boss, nor does money make you any less of a terrible person if you already are one.

18 thoughts on “Money Can’t Take Away Ignorance”

  1. Money can’t buy intelligence or manners. Sure, you can go to school and pay for an education, but if it doesn’t sink in, what good does that do? I think eventually they’ll have to make him sell the team. I can foresee problems recruiting new players with Sterling as the owner. Who wants to work for a boss that’s a bigot?

    • Totally agree, even if he’s suspended the money would still go this pockets, and I just couldn’t see enough players being OK with that to make it successful, and the NBA wouldn’t stand for that.

  2. No, money certainly does not change attitudes. Just like with Paula Dean or the Duck Dynasty guy, he will probably go on about his business and his attitudes will not change. Growing up in the rural South, this was, very unfortunately,the predominant attitude. It’s never right to hate another person for no reason other than race, beliefs, or who they fall in love with, but if that’s all you’ve ever been taught and you don’t have an opportunity to see anything else, that’s one thing. These people have traveled all over the place and should know that people are just people. Ignorance certainly is not limited to any race or financial standing.

  3. Despite of the despicable things he said, I have a problem with words said in a private conversation being the impetus to take away property. There are many things said by many people, in both public and private, that are despicable. In this case it was about race. The next case might be about religion.

    The next case may be about some other topic, such as religion, that some politician might decide is bad. And the government comes to take away some things.

    If the NBA really wants to hurt him, they should not let his team play. But they would hurt the NBA….

    • To clarify, they aren’t confiscating his property. If that were the case, I would agree with you. What they might do is force him to sell, and make no mistake about it, he would end up with a bank deposit that would contain many, many zeros at the end.

  4. I’m almost certain he will not remain an NBA owner for too much longer. The bylaws of the NBA state that they can remove an owner by passing a vote from all of the other owners (I think with 75% agreement? though not sure on the exact percentage).

    I’m sure the vote will take place, and I would be surprised if it didn’t pass. Basically if the owners are on the wrong side of this vote they will really hurt their individual fan bases. If this doesn’t pass then I could easily foresee a player boycott, I believe I had heard that if the punishments were not severe enough then most of the teams were planning to walk out on the rest of the playoffs. That’s a huge statement to make and I think it would have given the NBA a positive spin to things that racism and discrimination are not something that can be tolerated.

    (I actually just wrote about this exact topic before Adam Silver announced the lifetime ban, glad to see other PF writers didn’t let this go unnoticed.)

  5. They should let him keep the team, but everyone should just boycott their matches and merchendise
    Would cost him a lot more in the long run
    Can’t be doing with racists – I thought we’d moved on………

    • While I agree that it would cost him more, I don’t agree with this simply for the effects this would have on the players, the employees of the team, and the fans of the team. Why negatively effect all of those people simply to try to make a point to one man, who let’s face it, is probably not going to ‘get it’ either way.

  6. There’s a lot of discussion going around regarding this….even one of the previous commenters here mentions a point that I’ve heard many times over the last few days regarding things said in a private conversation being used to take property away. The thing is, while the comments were made in private, there’s a huge difference between someone making an off color joke or comment, and directing someone to alter their behavior based upon his racial prejudices. These comments will hurt the NBA and the Clippers financially, and for that they will force him to sell the team.

    • It’s not about the fact that he said the comments or whether they were in public or private, it’s 100% about the impact that it has on the team and on the NBA as a whole. Making him sell the team wouldn’t be about him being a blatant racist, it would be about the fact that blatant racists are bad for business. Everybody in the NBA from other owners to players to employees would suffer if he remained an owner. He needs to go.

  7. This whole thing is just an absolute mess. From what is being reported, Sterling has been known to be this way and I just can’t understand why he’d say something like this without the thought the woman was trying to bate him. It just goes to show you that money does not give you intelligence, decency or common sense.

    I think what the NBA did was right, because if they didn’t it would have spiraled even further in my opinion. Not only would it have impacted the team and it’s players, but the NBA as a whole. My one concern though is them forcing him to sell the team as it presents a slippery slope – I think Mark Cuban was the first one to point that out. If that does indeed go through, what’s to stop the same thing from happening if someone else shares views that others may not like? That said, he should see the writing on the wall, sell the team of his own volition and go on his way. However, from the lack of decency he has shown I don’t see that happening. I’ve heard that he might even legally challenge a forced sale, which would definitely pose an interesting situation. Ultimately, this just goes to show you that bigotry is unfortunately still alive and kicking even in today’s age.

    • It is a slippery slope. Cuban is right. But the fact remains that just because he bought the team at one point does not give him the lifetime right to do or say whatever he wants. As far as I know, no job has that security. Leaving him as owner would hurt every other owner, it would hurt every player, it would hurt employees of the Clippers and all other franchises. That’s just too big a pill to swallow in my eyes.

      The bottom line is that even when you’re an owner, you still have repercussions from your actions. In his case, sadly, it probably won’t ‘cost’ him as he’s still going to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars even if he is forced to sell.

  8. Heh…kinda like “you can’t fix stupid,” eh?

    On the other hand, the guy’s revolting comments were not made for public consumption. He had no idea he was being recorded; as far as he knew, he was speaking en famille. If you have no freedom of speech in your own private family life, where do you have freedom of speech?

    Granted he’s a dreadful man who ought not to be in charge of a business that employs a diverse team of highly talented people of all colors. Still…the whole thing has a bad odor, no matter which way the wind blows.

    Nice image…love the way it’s reminiscent of a lynch mob’s noose. 😉

  9. The ironic thing about this whole fiasco is that Sterling and his wife and son will stand to profit up to 350 million by some estimates. The NBA’s banning of Sterling actually increased the value and marketability of the franchise, crazy!

  10. It certainly seems like the NBA would not be hurting from having Sterling completely removed. His words were quite revealing. I don’t think you can bounce back from saying something like that.

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