The Hypocrisy of the Donald Sterling Situation

By: Jeff Spector
May 2, 2014

I don’t know about you but almost the instant I heard the story of Donald Sterling, billionaire Basketball team owner, slumlord, adulterer, and racist, I knew what was going to happen. And, it did….donald-sterling-gallery-gty-2

How did this person go from well-known philanthropist and multiple recipient of NAACP awards to the new Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan?

It’s simple, it’s called hypocrisy.

This person is known around LA for his well-publized comments about the tenants in his slums, typically lower income African-American and Hispanic folks. He was sued in 2006 and 2009 for discriminatory rental practices by the US Department of Justice. He also was known to say some bad things about African-Americans and Hispanics. He settled the suit for $2.73 Million fine as well as $5 Million in attorney’s fees and court costs. But he never had to admit guilt but was admonished by the judge for “unacceptable and sometimes outrageous conduct.”

So, it was a known fact that this guy was a poor owner of the LA Clippers, a racist and an all-around bad guy well in advance of the now-infamous tape. But, no one moved to do anything about it and many charities in the LA area gladly took his money, named buildings and events for him and honored him, as did the NAACP. Why did no one act then?

Money, that’s why. Money, power, and influence.

In reality, this is an old, stupid guy with too much money. The guy, who more than 80 years old and married for almost 60 years, has a girlfriend more than ½ his age whom he lavished with almost $2 million in gifts including cars and a condo. The wife got mad he is spending community property on the “other woman” and then sues her. The taped phone conversation appears to be revenge for the lawsuit.

In the taped phone call, Sterling says a lot of really dumb stuff, being egged on and prompted by the girlfriend. But, while some may finding it a bit appalling, he is referencing all the talk toward his girlfriend and what he wants her not to do. He doesn’t really say anything outwardly racist about people, only about her association with them. It is more a fit of jealousy than racist talk.

Nevertheless, the NBA and other groups seized on the moment to explode in righteous indignation toward Sterling and his talk about blacks and others to his girlfriend. It always makes me wonder who could pass the test of having his or her private conversations taped and then played for the world, especially being guided by someone with an apparent ulterior motive.

So, the relatively new NBA commissioner wants to demonstrate his disgust toward Sterling and in a show of force bans him from the NBA for life and plots a course to force him to sell the team. If he does sell, it will be at a huge profit of close to a Billion Dollars!

The cries of “crucify” him were heard around the politically correct universe, including the President of the United States. When asked why the NBA didn’t act sooner, the Commissioner, Adam Silver just said, “well, we acted now.”

That seemed to mollify most of the mob gathered on the courtyard, but strangely, a few have come out with differing perspectives.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, star player with the LA Lakers wrote a compelling piece on where he states:

“What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise. Now there’s all this dramatic and very public rending of clothing about whether they should keep their expensive Clippers season tickets. Really? All the other stuff I listed above has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun?


“So, if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on Celebrity Apprentice and Dancing with the Stars.”

That’s the rub, really. There is real racism going on all around us and it is ignored from the brief moments of action around stupid people doing and saying stupid stuff.

The other real compelling comments come from Bomani Jones of ESPN. In 2006, he wrote an article entitled “Sterling’s Racism Should Be News” where he calls out the real racism practiced by Sterling in his comments and housing discrimination lawsuit. As we know, nothing was done by the NBA at that point.

But, Jones also did an interview on Dan Le Batard’s Miami radio show. He calls out the NBA and others for latching on to this scandal while ignoring all the others.

Listen to it Here:


Finally, there are two points I want to make about this:

  1. Racism is still prevalent in our society. But, it’s not about what rich people say behind closed doors. In fact, it is not about what people say; it’s what they do and how they act. It’s about jobs, education, housing, crime and punishment and lack of opportunity for minorities to succeed in this country. It’s about gun violence, gangs, domestic abuse, fatherless homes, drugs and more. These areas of our society need to be addressed for racism to go away. Luckily, younger people have a different attitude toward minorities than their parents and grandparents, so likely the problems will be resolved by them.
  2. We have to stop giving a free pass to those who have money, power, and influence who do bad things. Whether it is professional sports, entertainment, politics, or people with a lot of money, they need to be held accountable for their misdeeds the same as the rest of us. Do you think that someone like Chris Brown would have gotten so many chances if he were a poor kid from Detroit? Or do you think former NBA player, Sean Banks would have gotten no prison time for his domestic violence charges if he were an ordinary person from New Jersey? Probably not on both counts. It’s time to put an end to this preferential treatment.

How do you feel this Sterling situation was handled?

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15 Responses to The Hypocrisy of the Donald Sterling Situation

  1. jks on May 2, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Since I heard about this first from a 14 year old African American boy when I asked him about his day on Monday, I am glad that the guy is getting punished. This kid tried to tell me that it wasn’t a big deal, but I know that all those no big deal things add up to be a big deal.
    Yes, we should be outraged about other racists acts that are far worse. THat doesn’t mean that nothing should be done in this case.
    As for private conversations, racism is perpetuated by private conversations.
    It isn’t the government cracking down on this like his conversation broke a law, it is the private sector and community.

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  2. MH on May 2, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    The thing that I can’t figure out, is that Sterling’s girlfriend is black, Sterling’s coach and most of the players are black, and Sterling doesn’t want her bringing black people to the game? To me, it just boggles my mind, and I can’t understand why he would have a black girlfriend in the first place. And to complain about Magic Johnson???? It boggles my mind.

    I’ve heard rumors that Magic could buy the Clippers. Now that would be really ironic!

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  3. MH on May 2, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    By the way, I was thinking about doing a post on Sterling and Clive Bundy, the Nevada (LDS) rancher who just said that blacks would be better off as slaves instead of living on welfare. These old men can’t die off fast enough, if you ask me.

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  4. Jeff Spector on May 2, 2014 at 12:23 PM


    As I said in the post, Sterling’s comments to her about black men and Magic Johnson was about her and the other men, who certainly are more attractive to a 30-something than that old goat. And they have money as well. So, it was a jealousy thing more than a racist thing, in my view.

    I was going to compare the rush on the left to pasteurize Sterling was akin to the right’s rush to embrace Cliven Bundy until they found out what a jerk he was as well……

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  5. New Iconoclast on May 2, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    If NBA franchise-owner rules allow the league to yank his ownership for being a jerk, then so be it; I don’t necessarily agree with the action but then I think people have a right to be jerks and still own and dispose of property.

    One thing about this I find amusing is that our buddy Harry Reid, and some of his local Mini-Mes (like MN Democrat Betty McCollum) are now calling for the NFL to basically do the same thing to force Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the name of the team.

    I do agree that the enire thing seems hypocritical. The girlfriend’s insistence that she wasn’t the one to rat him out doesn’t hold water to me and I’d think the wife is somehow involved as well. Abdul-Jabbar’s article was fantastic. Money talks, until it talks like that in public. What I think will happen is that a transfer of the team to his beleaguered wife will occur, which may be what she was trying to engineer in the first place.

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  6. dba.brotherp on May 2, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    I view his comments as the straw that broke the camel’s back. The guy is a racist and it finally caught up to him. I don’t feel sorry for this man. He’s not going to be homeless and living on the streets. He’s going to make a lot a money in spite of his beliefs and that is the real crime.

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  7. dba.brotherp on May 2, 2014 at 1:52 PM


    Thomas Jefferson had children with his slaves. Sometimes lust is more powerful than beliefs.

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  8. MH on May 2, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    Yes, Jefferson was a bundle of paradoxes.

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  9. Mormon Heretic on May 2, 2014 at 9:35 PM

    It’s funny that Sterling hasn’t apologized to Magic Johnson or anyone. Today I hear that he told a French magazine that he wishes he would have paid Stiviano to keep quiet. He doesn’t sound one bit remorseful.

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  10. dba.brotherp on May 3, 2014 at 7:21 AM


    I remember reading your piece about Jefferson and I enjoyed reading it again.

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  11. Nate on May 3, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    Good post Jeff. I too have been somewhat suspicious of all this righteous indignation. Yes, racism is bad. But phone tapping and entrappment is worse. Sterling would never have said those things in public. We all have a public personna, and a private personna. The world should judge people based on their public personna, and God on our private personna. We should let people have a private set of beliefs as long as they keep those beliefs private where they can do no harm. Had Sterling ever done anything actively racist, like discriminate against blacks on his team? If so, that should be the ONLY thing people should get up in arms against.

    It’s a little like the movie Minority Report, where people are imprisoned for their intentions, not their actions. But we can always quel an intention. We can always change our mind. Our thoughts and intentions are maleable. We all have dark and evil thoughts sometimes. But that does not mean we are dark and evil.

    It’s a little like a story I heard about a father who died, and her daughter read his secret journal, which portrayed the thoughts of a man she had no idea existed. She felt betrayed. But she shouldn’t have. The man in the secret journals was not the real man. The real man was the father who only allowed a certain set of his private thoughts to dictate the person he was. It is that choice which defines who we are, not our thoughts.

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  12. Douglas on May 3, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    The whole situation is beyond idiotic, but we’re talking about a so-called sport that has little more credibility than the WWF. I quit following the NBA after the 2002 Western Conference Finals after that blatant display of fixing an outcome.

    Let the private sector and the marketplace of public opinion works it way. This sleazy owner and his equally sleazy g/f deserved each other, and their parting is only fitting.

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  13. Casey on May 3, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    Sterling actually did have a pretty long history of making racist (or at least VERY racially coded) remarks to and about minorities in his own organization. The difference is that past cases were based mostly on word of mouth, while this time there’s a smoking gun. The privacy concerns are legitimate, but I disagree that private beliefs are somehow inadmissable in the marketplace of ideas and public opinion.

    I do agree with the gist of the OP that there’s plenty hypocrisy in the NBA only taking public stand when it was easy and when public outcry demanded it… and to some extent the hypocrisy extends to players, sponsors, and even fans for enabling and ignoring far worse offenses this guy committed (even sports writers who wrote against Sterling tended to lead with “he’s a terrible team manager who’s made consistently bad personnel decisions… And oh yeah he’s racist too”). My takeaway is that as a society we’re far more willing to condemn racist language than deal with actual structural racism, which is much harder to fix and recognize even as it does more harm.

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  14. el oso on May 9, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    “It’s about gun violence, gangs, domestic abuse, fatherless homes, drugs and more. These areas of our society need to be addressed for racism to go away. Luckily, younger people have a different attitude toward minorities than their parents and grandparents, so likely the problems will be resolved by them.”
    I was with you until you said this. Unless you consider people born in the ’60s young, you are missing the generational difference. Most people of this age have discarded the racist ways of previous generations. The problems you mentioned above have mostly gotten worse as racism has declined. Gangs, abuse, bastardy, drugs, etc. are more likely closer to the root cause of the societal problems than is current racism. In terms of root causes of societal inequity, racism, sexism, and homophobia get lots of press. These are all way down the list of actual causes currently in the USA.
    Any NBA owner has done a lot (publicly) to improve the racial integration and fairness in this country, regardless of private beliefs and communication. Maybe this is part of the reason the NAACP acted previously like it did. Back when the Clippers great coach, Doc Rivers, was playing in the NBA, there were no black college football head coaches in Div Ia, but several very successful NBA coaches (this is now changed). The salaries and exposure of the league, and its many black players and coaches, have exploded in Stirling’s tenure. Major, serious public policy institutions like Time, seek out NBA retirees like Kareem for comments even though there are think tanks and commentators all around who would love to be heard in that forum. (Although, if you look at old Jeopardy reruns, Kareem completely dominated a leading TV host in that celebrity competition. Maybe Cap should get his own show or column.)

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  15. Karen on May 30, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    The Clippers have been bought, if the NBA agrees to the deal, for $2 billion. Sterling will be living high and mighty with $2 billion now- only, it seems, he is now backing out of his deal with his wife, to actually allow her to sell the Clippers. He is going to fight tooth and nail NOT to let the sale go through. This is a never-ending saga.

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