It’s almost hard to believe that the transatlantic slave trade happened 400 years ago, but even after abolition, the long term effects of systematic prejudice still linger today. Modern day practises include racial profiling, stop and frisk and type-casting in Hollywood. George Zimmerman walked away from the alleged murder of a young black man, Trayvon Martin, on account of a legal flaw within his jurisdiction. We are still present among individuals who feel they can put the current President of the United States’ birth certificate under scrutiny. And, of course, we live in a world where an NBA franchise owner fails to see the equal value of all human beings, not least the minority tenants who live in his housing project slums, and not in those who play for and against him in the league. Clippers owner Donald Sterling allegedly suspended former shooting guard Ron Harper for comparing the Clippers to a “jail sentence” in 1994. He’s also allegedly made derogatory remarks about Magic Johnson, according to court testimony. Between Sterling’s history of racism and the recent recordings that have come to light, the NBA has decided to ban him for life in a world that, finally, is showing less patience for racist bullshit masquerading as poor team stewardship.
Sterling’s racism in the league
After an investigation that was conducted by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and other officials, it was proven that Sterling was the individual who was spewing racial hatred on the surfaced tape. Most people would find it shocking, appalling, egregious and downright contradictory of him to have that opinion on minorities while reaping the benefits of minorities who work hard as part of a sports franchise he owns, in a league that is predominantly comprised of minorities, while dating a woman who is herself a visible minority. What’s also somewhat of a revelation is the fact that multiple players including former Clippers Baron Davis and Steve Novak have delivered their own testimony to the NBA community regarding Sterling’s uncouth behavior towards visible minorities. This kind of testimony has been prevalent since the early days of the David Stern era, when the Clippers journeyed from Buffalo, to San Diego, to Los Angeles. It begs the question whether Stern should have stepped in to confront Sterling’s behaviour at the time. Instead, Sterling was allowed to continue to build his reputation on a group that the leaked tape indicates he despised.
So where do we as a society and the NBA go from here? Sterling’s case has clearly show that despite the number of multimillionaire athletes, business owners and persons of minority descent holding political office, we still have a long way to go when it comes to race relations. Silver called for the immediate ban of Sterling from the NBA altogether, as well as fine worth $2.5 million that will be used to fund anti-discriminatory organizations in America. It was granted. However, is that enough, and should the league be wary of other owners who may have the same sentiments as Sterling? Cleveland Cavaliers President Dan Gilbert was compared to a “slave master” by Reverend Jesse Jackson based on the vitriol and rhetoric that he spewed at LeBron James in an open letter around the time of “The Decision.” According to Jackson, the NBA should take a greater interesting in “challenging” officials who share Gilbert’s mentality. Maybe it’s time to do just that. The Sterling debacle has proven that the long term effects of slavery are still very much alive in our world, both overtly and behind the scenes.