The Donald Sterling Saga

  • 9-11-2015


 As a basketball lover extraordinaire I feel compelled to examine the Donald Sterling saga as it unfolds.

The scenario/issues are as I understand it;


  1. Donald Sterling in a private conversation had the unfortunate situation of his conversation being taped by the other party and then made public,
  2. Has he broken his contractual arrangements with the NBA,
  3. Does the punishment fit the crime,
  4. Who should be the ones calling for the sale of the team,
  5. Should basic principles apply?


Ever since the widely dubbed ‘racist rant’ of Donald Sterling has been made public at the end of April this year, there have been a media frenzy with a wide gamut of persons voicing a myriad of  opinion on this emotionally charged matter. One sees the various debates, comments, articles and blogs on CNN, ESPN, Yahoo and other platforms in the media. It is reported that TMZ broke the news that Donald Sterling told V Stiviano not to bring any blacks to his games, being the LA Clippers games.


Illegally Obtained information

It is my understanding that to tape one’s conversation without the permission of the other party is a criminal offence in the State of California. In the entire furor on this matter that point seems to be totally lost or overlooked by traditional American media. Journalists especially those on CNN have failed to address this issue and have refused to invite guests on their programs who will speak out against the NBA’s position. Why should illegally obtained information be used to punish Sterling and separate him from his team?


Let’s face it, what he said sounded horrible especially the tone in which it was said BUT the negating factor was that it was illegally obtained. Contextually here is an old, white, rich man who is interested in a young, black woman. It is reported that he bought her two (2) Bentleys and the condominium that she now resides in is valued at $1.8M.  This white old rich man sees the young black girl that he desires hanging out with younger, black rich powerful and influential guys. It seems normal to be jealous and rants that she is not to take blacks to his games. That’s the context as I understand it. At no time am I saying that he is correct in making those statements but that’s just his jealousy overflowing and so she baits him by bringing up a racial discussion on the telephone. She then records the conversation and being very well aware of the value of that conversation orchestrated its release into the hands of gossip hungry; TMZ. A news hungry and scandal depraved set of Journalists seizes this opportunity to boost the ratings on their shows. American media thrives on ratings, which is understandable.


The NBA commissioner Adam Silver within days announces that Sterling is now banned for life from all NBA games. He goes further and levies a fine on him of $2.5 Million and demands that he sells the LA Clippers, which he owns with his wife. Regardless of his reportedly known history with racism, why would the NBA now act based on information that it did not obtained legally? One wonders if the NBA would have been so reactive if the media didn’t have such an outcry.  This news was fast followed with past and present NBA players agreeing with the media that there is no place for Sterling in the NBA. Suddenly a host of celebrities started indicating their interest in purchasing his team. Rather than speaking against the fact that V Stiviano broke the law and that the public should not benefit from a crime, persons such as Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, Grant Hill quickly indicated their interest in the acquiring the LA Clippers. One man’s downfall was to be their treasure, ironically Don Sterling had not put up his team for sale, yet they were so many interested takers.


Donald Sterling did not say that blacks are horrible beasts, nor did he say that he will not associate with blacks; rather it was a situation in which he in a jealous rage said his girlfriend should not put upon her instagram pictures she took with Magic Johnson. How could he be a racist if he has a black girlfriend and invested so much money on her?



A big and dangerous threat to privacy. How does one balance the interest of society with the breaking of the law? Too many times emotions take precedence over being rational and persons who see the dangerous precedent that is being set are often too weak to stand up and not be a part of the crowd.


I watch CNN frequently and many times I see Rachel Nichols, Wolfe Blitzer, Carol Castello, LZ Anderson, Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper crusading for Sterling to lose his team. These Journalists in my view should be sufficiently educated to be able to reason more rationally rather than on bare emotions. The more they speak on the issue is more their biases and prejudices are evident.



Wife Also Punished

His wife has indicated that she owns half of the franchise and that she is not selling her half despite the popular opinion being that the entire team will be sold. It’s a case of guilty by association. These journalists are so blind or cold to the fact that third parties interests are severely negatively impacted. It is their daily broadcast of this matter and throwing their opinion at the public that has resulted in other ill informed malicious Americans join in asking for Sterling to lose his team. These malicious individuals ought to advance the discussion by ascertaining if the law in California allows a racial act of a husband to so severely prejudice a wife that she suffers significant losses. As brilliant as these journalists profess they are, as intently as I follow up this debacle, I have not seen those issues explored in a meaningful way.


He who is Without Sin Cast the first the Stone – Is being a racist unpardonable compared to being gay?

Despite the United States and other modern society’s quest to make laws that foster civilized societies and to encourage equality for all, it is clear that many persons in our society still have their biases as it relates to race and sexual orientation. It is my view that many Americans have issues with a gay lifestyle as they do with being racist but they will tolerate gays just the way they will tolerant of  a racist. In the scheme of what is socially acceptable in the American society one has to look at Sterling’s racist rant in light of the fact that CNN’s  Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper have publicly spoke about their gay lifestyle. These are Journalists who have been very vocal on television in leading this charge for Sterling to lose his team (one of the most powerful avenue of the media) today. I am making it absolutely clear that I have nothing against anyone’s sexuality but just for the purposes of the writing this paper, I am only making an analogy in terms of society’s biases towards persons who are racist versus those who are gay. (Forgive me if I descend the slippery slope).


I don’t recall a back lash of any sort in the media when these two Journalists made their announcements. I didn’t expect them to lose their jobs at all but because many persons in our society do not approve of a gay lifestyle yet they will accept persons who are gay without making judgmental statements and not lead a charge for them to lose their jobs because a vast amount of Americans still don’t approve of that lifestyle. So I find it strange and ironic that these two Journalists have been so vociferous and aggressive against Sterling to the point where in my view they have to a large extent instigated the media frenzy on the matter, which will likely cost him his team.


I don’t think Journalists should be the ones to determine if he loses his team or what his punishment should be. Journalists are to report on matters as they arise and leave the viewing public to take a position if they choose to do so, not to influence us with the positions they take.


He who is without sin cast the first stone, it would have been a more meaningful debate if these Journalists reported as the information comes along and leave the debate in public domain. Better yet, these Journalists could have taken a more high road position and query why is it that Sterling ought to be punished for an illegally obtained telephone conversation he had PRIVATELY. Citizens, ought to be afforded the certainty that as long as you are not a threat in any way to others in society nor a threat to public safety, that your privacy ought to be honored and revered.


The comments by Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) are a refreshing one. It’s like the diamond in the rubble. His position is that to take away someone’s team under these circumstances is a very ‘slippery slope’ that the NBA ought to be careful of. When such a precedent is set, it leaves the flood gates wide open for other spurious situations which may arise, which would be untenable for the other owners to accept. So if an NBA team owner beats his wife, or cheats on her and there is a public outcry, should be loose his team? A very slippery slope.


Broken Contract?


David Silver, NBA Commissioner has asserted that Sterling has broken terms in his contract, chief of which is damage to the team and the NBA brand. How is this damage measured in such a short time? Furthermore, all clippers games were sold out for the remainder of the season. What type of consultations was done in determining punishment? Sterling himself a lawyer ought to fight back and claim that the NBA has damaged his reputation by giving acceptance to information illegally obtained. To impose those draconian measures in a matter of approximately three weeks cannot be sufficient time to examine damage to of the brand.


Sterling - Author of his own downfall

Apart from being a businessman, Sterling being also a lawyer and ought to have been more tempered in his speech especially with the interview he did with Anderson Cooper. He either should have hired a lawyer to speak on his behalf, or hire the services of Public Relations Firm to speak for him and in that process do damage control. That interview was beneficial to Anderson Cooper and the only person who had success was Anderson Cooper as he advanced his position that Sterling should lose his team and of course boost his ratings on his show. That interview was absolutely of no value to Sterling. He spoke like a “lose canon” going on a tirade about Magic Johnson sleeping with numerous women and contracting HIV. He should have used an interview like that to emphasize his position as to context of his infamous rant and try and do some damage control rather than fall into the hands of Anderson Cooper who used the interview to advance his call for Sterling to give up the Clippers. This was tantamount to entrapment similarly to what V Stiviano had done.


His poor communications skills, maybe through arrogance or simply being naive were the author of his own misfortune. That interview with Anderson Cooper was terrible, an interview which evidently the NBA Commissioner saw as he actually commented on excerpts of that fateful interview.


The fact that this type of matter in my opinion has never been tested in court, Sterling with all his wealth should take it to the courts and lay the record straight as it relates, to privacy, racism, community property and if the conduct of a husband can impute guilt on the wife with such a colossal financial effect on her.


In the circumstances I think the punishment meted out to him and his wife is excessive and draconian especially that it was orchestrated by a girlfriend who clearly had a nefarious agenda. He has the financial resources to dedicate to this matter and it would be good jurisprudence to lay the record straight if or when similar situations arise, not just in the NBA but generally in the American society.

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