[editor’s note: This is an entry from a friend of mine, Dallas McLaughlin. In addition to writing, he does stand-up comedy, and other neat things. His take on Donald Sterling and the NBA is one that I hadn’t pondered, so I thought it’d be worth sharing. It’s not the first time you’ve heard from him here. He still hates that I’m funnier than he is. – bp]
After the Donald Sterling spectacle came to an “end” I sat down and started writing. I wrote a long diatribe about what this means for the NBA, and racism in the league, and blah blah blah. Basically, it was the same thing you’ve been reading for days now. I took a step back. I wanted to let it all simmer, and marinate. I wanted to see some different opinions and takes, and I’m glad I did. What I’ve seen and heard over that time made me delete my previous draft and start over. Why?
I realized that I don’t care about the Sterling decision.
It doesn’t affect me one bit. Won’t change my opinion of the Clippers, of basketball, of racism, and most importantly Donald Sterling. There was so much talk and so quickly about what Sterling’s banishment meant, that I think people started to completely ignore what Sterling’s banishment actually did:
1) It gave Adam Silver the chance to announce his presence with authority. He simultaneously showed the world what kind of commissioner he’s going to be, and that he’ll judge all components the same: Players, coaches, owners, and fans will be on the same level. At least for now – until the next strike – then Silver will fall back in line, I’m sure of it. Why? There’s no money in siding with the players – ever.
2) It finally allowed the NBA to take back the Clippers. No one ever liked Sterling. He was routinely voted one of the worst owners in sports. He was a dick, and he seemed to stubbornly refuse to let the Clippers ever be relevant. He couldn’t see, or just never wanted to, that the NBA needs LA, and LA needs the NBA. I mean hell, Stern basically gift wrapped Chris Paul for the team, right around the same time they get a franchise pick in Blake Griffin. The only person standing in the way of the Clippers reaching the next level was Sterling. Not anymore, and now the NBA, and the rest of the owners stand to benefit. So does Sterling, mind you, just for the wrong reasons.
3) It vindicated the dozens and dozens of reporters who have been calling out Sterling for decades – and not just for his terrible basketball decisions. Sterling, as I’ve stated, is a huge prick. He’s been publicly racist for a very long time, and in an actual harmful way – you know not in the way where he may have offended Magic Johnson, and/or his players. I’m sure the millionaires playing for the Clips will find a way to cope with one old man’s ranting. Because I love basketball, and wish every day it would come back to San Diego, I’m aware of Sterling’s discretions on and off the court. However, I urge you all to listen to this clip of Bomani Jones laying down the truth. It’s fascinating, and passionate, and the real reason we should all be thankful someone like Sterling is gone.
4) It gave us all a sense of self-importance. We all love when we get to gang up on one person, who no one ever really liked, and who just happens to have way, more money than all of us combined. It gives us a chance to feel better than someone who in all honesty probably lived a much more comfortable life than ours. It’s hard when we see the so-called “bad guys” get away with it, so when they’re knocked down a peg we feel like justice has been done. We run to twitter and facebook and whatever else to put in our two cents, and let the world know how racist we aren’t. It feels good to feel like were good. We can all band together, hold hands, and pretend like we just FINALLY once and for all defeated racism. Well done, everybody. Now, on to the next story – you guys heard about this Benghazi thing?
Of course with all the above reasons being touted, and retweeted, and championed, we have totally ignored what Sterling’s banishment didn’t do:
1) It didn’t hand down any sort of real punishment. It’s not like this is Shoeless Joe or Pete Rose getting banned in the prime of their player/managerial careers. Sterling is 82. He looks like he’s 102. If he’s alive for ten more years I’ll be shocked. So, he basically got suspended from the NBA for the foreseeable future. He got fined pocket change, and then forced to sell the team. He will make hundreds of millions of dollars while being “punished”. He should be given back his original investment with the remainder going towards charity, or maybe he shouldn’t see a dime at all! Sterling’s real punishment is being let off the hook with a little damage to his reputation, which won’t even be a conservation in three years, let alone three weeks – and here’s why:
2) It ignored the biggest issue of this whole case, and the thing that scares me the most: Are we now going to get in trouble for things we said in private conversations to loved ones? Of course it’s debatable how much of a “loved one” his 15-year old girlfriend is, but I digress. While what he said is terrible, when’s the last time you met an old white billionaire who wasn’t just a tad racist? Just read what Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote about it.
And, you know what? He’s right! Not only did it sound like he was being baited into saying terrible things, it was a private conversation! Do we all have to be worried that our friends are recording us, and those recordings can be broadcast, and subsequently punishable? Of course the argument is: If you’re not saying anything bad, you shouldn’t be worried! Granted. However, that’s not the point. It’s not like Sterling refused to hire black players, in fact this USA Today article makes it sound like he didn’t really want any white players:
He never had a press conference explaining he isn’t a black fan of their culture or presence. He was having a private conversation expressing his personal opinions. Are having unpopular opinions illegal? Is the mere act of expressing those opinions privately an offense worthy of losing your job or being fined millions? If that’s the case we need to do a serious rewrite of the Constitution. I’m not in any way saying his opinions are correct or right or even defensible, but they are his. And, as I’ve mentioned there are a plethora of actual and public racist things Sterling has said and done. Something could have been done when he was under Federal indictment, but no one did. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t blatant enough? Maybe people didn’t pretend to be outraged enough? Maybe social media didn’t really exist at the time? The fact that we can all gang up on a private conversation should make us all scared about the future of humanity.
3) The sad thing is all in all it didn’t really do anything. Sterling’s gone. The Clippers, the NBA, and fans will push the idea of “healing” (as if anyone was actually hurt), and the need to move on. Not to forget, but to remember and allow it to teach us all something about ourselves. Well, I didn’t learn anything – except that it was surprising how many people didn’t know Sterling was already a terrible human being. In reality nothing will come of this, and nothing should, except the exit of Donald Sterling. So why are we acting like the world has changed?
I’m glad Adam Silver came down with a hammer, and did it swiftly. I’m glad he didn’t allow a circus to ensue and then drag on for months! I mean we already have the NBA playoffs – AND WE’RE BARELY OUT OF ROUND ONE!!! But, I’m not happy with how quickly the public made it about them. Like it is when any dispute happens in pro sports we are usually talking about billionaires fighting millionaires who only concern themselves with the fans in an arbitrary way. They think about us like I think about my Dad’s second wife’s kids. We need to feel more a part of the conversation. Not just the fans, but the reporters, coaches, analysts, anyone who isn’t a player or an owner. It’s a vicious one-sided relationship contingent on the quality of performance, and trust of allegiance, which will never fulfill expectations.
At some point we need to have a problem like this, and we need to celebrate it, and make it bigger than it is. We need to feel like we’ve uncovered the underlying issue that not only exists in pro sports, but the entire world. We need this to distract us from our own flaws, our own beliefs and opinions that we’d be terrified to ever have recorded. We crucify the 1% only to realize it never results into trickle down wealth or actual happiness. Should Donald Sterling still be an owner? No. But, for so many reasons that this recent screw-up would actually end up somewhere in the bottom two if we made a list. Should people be racist? Of course not. We shouldn’t even have to worry about this kind of thing anymore. It’s petty, it’s archaic, and it truly is beneath our species. However, it will probably never go away, and we haven’t solved any problems, and the league was just as racist or not racist as it was two weeks ago. Do we feel better about things? Probably. And, when it comes down to it, when you really think about how this affected you, isn’t that all that ever mattered?