Sterling and other tarnished sports

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So now we know that it was his girlfriend V. Stiviano who recorded Donald Sterling’s racist rant as they bickered while watching his Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA playoffs. And that he apparently knew she was, which is really weird.

It’s too bad the mystery has apparently been solved, because it was fun to think it was the work of the National Security Agency, now widely described as “the only agency in government that listens.” Even the NSA head finds that line funny.

But in the NBA, no one found anything amusing about Sterling being revealed as a card-carrying scumbag. Everyone stumbled over each other to express their utter shock at what he was caught saying. But his boorishness was hardly a secret. He has a long history of documented discrimination. This time, his bigotry was impossible to ignore.

The league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, lowered the boom on Sterling, banning him for life, fining him the maximum and laying on pressure for him to sell the Clippers. The fine was $2.5 million; the franchise probably is worth $700 million, so let’s not mourn for Donald Sterling. Still, this is being touted as a courageous act by Silver. Frankly, I’m not that impressed. It really was a, uh, slam-dunk.

The players were threatening to boycott, the fans who buy tickets might do the same, and most importantly, the corporate sponsors were scurrying away. Suddenly, the other basketball owners were letting it be known that they would vote to banish Sterling. Whatever their motivations, it was nice to see that those who run professional sports were finding racism totally unacceptable.

But wait. We do have that situation here in Washington, D.C., where the NFL franchise proprietor, Dan Snyder, is adamant about retaining a slur against Native Americans to identify his football team. Let’s hasten to stipulate that Snyder, in more ways than one, is not in the same league as Sterling. Besides, Snyder has established a new organization to provide money for Indian reservations. It’s the Original Americans Foundation — OAF.

Sterling has been a big-time contributor to the NAACP. So much so that the civil-rights group was about to award him a second lifetime achievement award. Maybe the contrast isn’t all that stark.

One big difference is that the National Basketball Association is pushing Sterling out. The National Football League seems to be doing very little to force Snyder to get rid of the R-word. Commissioner Roger Goodell has done little except to state that it’s up to Dan Snyder to do the right thing.

At least Sterling is being sent out to pasture. Speaking of which, maybe he can use the three-quarters of a billion or so dollars he can get for the Clippers to buy a huge cattle ranch in Nevada. He’ll certainly have sympathetic neighbors.

He can take V with him. The state has a huge number of mines, so there’s plenty more gold she can dig.

In truth, it’s too late to worry about privacy. We have none. A word to the wise is watch what you do and say. Everyone else is.

But wait. There is one other thing: Don’t be such a jerk.
© 2014 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Synd.

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