The racist-ass comments made by Donald Sterling have been the big story in sports world for the past week or so, and NBA Commissioner Adam “Sexy Silver” Silver came down harshly on Sterling, banning him for life from the league, fining him $2.5 million and saying he would be working with the NBA owners to force Sterling to sell his team. Sports, as we all know, is about winning and losing. But really so is life. So let’s do Winner & Losers, Donald Sterling Edition.
Loser: Donald Sterling
So as it turns out when you get caught saying a bunch of racist stuff on tape, you get your NBA team taken away from you. By “taken away” I mean, he’ll sell it at an enormous, enormous profit. By now this story’s been beaten to death, so let’s hone in on a few of the less-covered angles:
1) Sterling said it was cool if his girlfriend had sex with Magic Johnson, so long as she didn’t take a picture of it. Does this mean Donald Sterling has HIV?
2) Again, his initial rage-fury was over her taking a picture of Magic Johnson, a guy so beloved that even those racist pizza shop Italian dudes in Do The Right Thing liked him. Come on! Be a more discerning racist, Donald Sterling.
3) Apparently Donald Sterling asked his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, to tape their conversations regularly, ostensibly because he was old and forgetful. That raises the distinct possibility that he was just listening to his racist tapes in the comfort of his own home, as he does every morning, only to realize they were on the radio.
Loser: Sterling’s Mistress V. Stiviano
First of all, what kind of a name is V. Stiviano? Where did her first name go? Is this a Harry S Truman situation? Second of all, she’s really redefining visorwear, as seen in the above picture. Third of all, Sterling had his lackeys allege that in light of her current status as the defendant in a suit being filed by Sterling’s wife (the basic logic of which is that any gifts Sterling gave V. Stiviano are from their shared property under California law–she’s going to lose, presumably), V. Stiviano was seeking to “get even” with Sterling. Whether or not she managed to do that is unclear. Her actions directly led to him being fined $2.5 million, banned for life from the NBA and eventually he’ll be forced to sell his team. But in the end, she still had to have sex with Donald Sterling, which puts her firmly in the loser column.
Winner: That other racist who was in the news
Cliven Bundy? Was that his name? Yeah. Sure, it’s fun when some insane rancher living in Galt’s Gulch says some racist stuff, but as any news producer will tell you, recordings of a racist billionaire beats that ten times out of ten.
Winner: Our prejudices
Let’s be honest: this story confirmed all your biases about a minority group here in America that hasn’t always had the best reputation. I’m talking of course about billionaires. We think of them as being paranoid and racist and viewing people, especially their employees, as property that are only of value to the universe to the extent they generate mansion-gilding profits. Well, at least one of them is now on the record as holding that very opinion. So, kudos to you, Donald Sterling for in your absurd prejudice, you confirmed all our prejudices about your people.
Donald Trump tried to show a bit of Donald-arity (does that work as a portmanteau of “Donald” and “solidarity”? I don’t know) by pretty much blaming the whole thing on Sterling’s girlfriend, but the backlash machine has been unusually quiet on this one. Literally zero people have defended Sterling, and while people who don’t understand the first amendment (seriously, Joyce Carol Oates?) try to have a broader discussion of principles, pretty much everyone is on board with doing as much as possible to punish Donald Sterling. He has pulled off something rather amazing: over the course of eighty years on earth, during which he’s accumulated a net worth of nearly two billion dollars, thirty of which he’s spent as a public figure, he’s done absolutely nothing positive for the world. There are literally no things in his life that people can point to to be like “Well, sure he’s a racist, but at least he built a water park for underpriviliged youth,” or “Well, sure he’s a racist, but at least he’s never been forced to pay a multimillion dollar settlement for housing discrimination,” or even “Well sure he’s a racist, but at least he’s managed to competently run the NBA franchise he owns.”
While Sterling had the Clippers put out some halfhearted statement distancing himself from the story, it’s possible he’ll go on TV at some point and try to explain to America how this was all a hilarious ’80s sitcom-esque misunderstanding and that he’s not a racist. But I’m really hoping he goes the other way and owns this. Hard. Because if I were a horrible racist, after all these years of having nobody defend my terrible viewpoint in public, I’d want someone a bit more charismatic than Donald Sterling to try to pitch America on the idea that we had it right on race relations in the early 1800s.
Loser: Courts of Non-Public Opinion
Somehow settling a housing discrimination lawsuit for millions of dollars and being quoted as saying things like black people smell bad and Mexicans just sit around and smoke and drink all day is only enough to get people to be like “We need to hear both sides of the story here.” Again, this is something that was admissible in court, and is quite clearly as bad as anything on those tapes. And yet nobody cared.
Winner: These dudes
Loser: Actual Protests
Besides those two heroes in the above picture, the swiftness of the resolution to this whole case made it tricky for any good protestin’ to get going. The Clippers’ inside-out shirt thing was fine, I guess, as were the black shoes and socks. Tasteful, understated, and sent a clear message that they weren’t playing for Donald Sterling, but for themselves and their fans. BORING. There were so many options. Tweet out Donald Sterling’s phone number. Burn an effigy of Sterling at halfcourt. Come out wearing customized non-Clippers uniforms (are you telling me a Los Angeles Djangos jersey wouldn’t sell out immediately?).
And a “good job, good effort” honorable mention to Warriors coach Mark Jackson for his idea that nobody should attend game five of the series in Los Angeles, which coincidentally would eliminate the Clippers’ home court advantage. Somehow, nobody went along with that.
Winner: Hypothetical Protests
Let’s look at what allegedly would’ve happened if Adam Silver had gone soft on Sterling:
The Warriors were going to go through pre-game warm-ups and take part in the national anthem and starting line-up introductions. They were going to take the floor for the jump ball, dapping up the Clippers players as is customary before games.
Then once the ball was in the air, they were just going to walk off. All 15 of them.
Granted it’s easy to say “We totally would’ve done this awesome thing” now, but that would’ve been the craziest thing ever to happen in NBA history, or at least since Ron Artest beat the crap out of those fans that one time. Supposedly the Warriors planned to have the Clippers join them in doing this, but I really like the idea of only one team doing this. Would the Clippers just play against nobody? How many points would they score? Would they get bored after a while? Would they have to play an entire 48 minute game with nobody there? Would fans leave? Truly, this was a missed opportunity. (Incidentally, Jermaine O’Neal was at least a peripheral figure in both as well as being a member of the Portland Jail Blazers. He’s the Forrest Gump of dark moments in NBA history.)
The world is a better place because now this exists