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By Anthony McClean, Editor Emeritus
NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN): Once again, the sports media world has been thrown into a tizzy since the revelations of the Donald Sterling tapes came out over the past 72 hours or so. The TMZ originated reports have been met by many in the mainstream media in a predictable fashion. From thoughts of a possible boycott by the Clippers to general shock and outrage from “those in the know”, the story has gotten its fair share of attention mixed with controversy.
Unfortunately — as what always seems to happen in a story like this — the real lead gets buried.
Sterling’s racist rant really shouldn’t come to any surprise to most folks who have followed the former attorney’s career on and off the court. According to published reports, the Department of Justice in August of 2006 sued Sterling for housing discrimination in using race as a factor in filling some of his apartment buildings. The suit charged that Sterling refused to rent to non-Koreans in the Korea Town neighborhood of L.A. and to blacks in Beverly Hills.
The suit also alleged that Sterling once said he did not like to rent to Hispanics because they “smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” and that “Black tenants smell and attract vermin”. Three years later, Sterling agreed to pay a fine of $2.73 million to settle claims brought by the Justice Department and Davin Day of Newport Beach that he engaged in discriminatory rental practices against Hispanics, blacks, and families with children.
So in retrospect, it doesn’t really take a large leap of faith in judgment upon hearing that Sterling didn’t want “any blacks at my games”. But there’s something much larger that the Sterling rant reveals. It’s the nasty little secret that still exists within the million dollar boys club of white men (and women) that make up the monopoly of ownership in professional sports franchises.
Sterling was speaking on a long standing attitude amongst most if not all white owners/CEO’s in regards to how they really feel about the minorities within their organizations. Most importantly, this racist attitude is reserved for the most visible elements of their teams, that being the players and or coaches; especially non-white or perceived non-white players and or coaches.
It’s an attitude that exists when an anonymous team official can call a prospective black draft pick “lazy and spoiled”. It exists when a longtime black assistant coach is passed over by a white coach getting his first head coaching job. It also exists when an owner isn’t satisfied with the racial makeup of their given fan base as well. If you don’t think Sterling was speaking for a majority of owner brethren, then you really haven’t been paying attention; especially on a historic level.
When the then Brooklyn Dodgers made their move to West Coast in the 1950′s, the prevailing thought was that the team was losing money and attendance was down at tiny Ebbets Field. However, Walter O’Malley was troubled by the migration of his longtime white fans away from Brooklyn which saw a resurgence of black fans at the park due to the presence of players like Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Don Newcombe.
Ironically, the Mets’ current ballpark — Citi Field — was exactly what O’Malley was looking for in structure and in fan demographics.
One can never forget the antics of George Preston Marshall, who owned the Washington football team from 1932 through 1969. Under Marshall’s reign, Washington became the last team in the NFL to sign a black ballplayer. It only happened when the lease on then D.C. Stadium was threatened to be revoked by the Washington city government. One of Marshall’s attributed quotes was “I’ll start signing Negros when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing Whites”.
At the end of the day, Sterling espoused a repeated view over sports and life that many whites with power and money have maintained. No matter how many blacks are hired by folks like him, it will never change a racist attitude. No matter how many MLB players wear the No. 42 on April 15th, the smoldering stain of bigotry and prejudice will always remain. The Williams Sisters and Tiger Woods can change the face of a game, but not the “you just don’t belong here” attitude.
In the other owners’ minds, Sterling’s biggest crime was breaking the code. That being “what’s said here, what’s done here, stays here”.
Sadly, the largest co-conspirators in this long time practice are other minorities like the members of L.A. chapter of the NAACP that has and was about to honor this known racist – with a “Lifetime Achievement Award!”
Not to mention the misguided and self-hating black Miami Dolphins players who called Richie Incognito an honorary Negro. It also furthers the “house negro-field negro” dynamic that the late Malcolm X so eloquently spoke on years ago.
So what will happen in the end?
We’ll have continued days of outrage and bombast. There will be symbolic gestures and articles similar and or dissimilar to this point of view. So far, only one sponsor (State Farm) has abandoned their alliance with the franchise and I’m sure others will eventually follow due to the public backlash. I’m sure we’ll hear from Jesse, Al, and all the other usual suspects as well.
The NBA and the Players’ Association are mobilizing behind the scenes. But let’s get real, if the league tries to play the “we didn’t know this about Mr. Sterling” game, they should be put on blast by every black season ticket holder in the NBA. Considering the known racist history of this owner, this is a cowardly excuse at best by a league that while allowing some black men to be their face, they secretly applaud Sterling’s rant.
I hope I’m wrong, but I think Sterling will be allowed to keep his team. It will be the “hot button” story for a few more days, but it will get buried as soon as Kim and Kanye do something stupid in public — again. It will get forgotten when some former black NBA player sticks up for Mr. Sterling saying he has a right to his opinion. And it will get forgotten as soon as another season of “Scandal” comes out in DVD.
Damn, I really hope I’m wrong.