By Stephane Dunn | With thanks to NewBlackMan (in Exile)
Tuesday, May 13, 2014.
“What can really be done? The guy’s like a
billionaire so a fine’s gonna be like a dollar." The guy, of course,
is Donald Sterling, the now more infamous owner of the LA Clippers.
one of the hundreds of young black men at Morehouse College, echoed others.
really get somebody for being prejudice and the girl was wrong. Who wants to be
taped in the privacy of their own homes and then have somebody throw it out
there. That ain’t right,” argued another.
don’t understand, “ A bewildered student wondered aloud, “Is how can he be
racist like that when he was sleeping with somebody black and got all them
black players, a black coach, and paying them all this money too?”
We were in
class, a theory and criticism class, and I went into this whole discussion
about the historical nature of white supremacy, of master-slave narratives,
reminding them about the rape and exploitation of black women and men. But
truthfully, it was inadequate. They were seriously confused, mostly by the idea
that what Sterling embodies still exists to that extreme and by the uncertainty
about what could be done or should anything be done by the NBA and the Clippers
We now know
that Adam Silver has made his first stand as NBA commissioner and responded,
days after the firestorm broke, to Sterling’s racist rant to his former
girlfriend. Silver banned Sterling for life from any physical participation in
the NBA and the Clippers organization and fined him 2.5 million; ultimately, he
can’t do what he says he hopes will happen – that Sterling be forced to sale
his ownership in the LA Clippers. That’ll take a 75% vote by the other NBA
owners; only several are these are minorities. Sterling can still make his
Clippers money, and a lot of it, indefinitely. It’s not a moment for a victory
dance or returning to game business as usual.
It’s a moment
to direct a hard, long gaze at the racial politics implicit in the hierarchical
structure of the NBA that has long been reality cause here is the truth we all
know now too well: Donald Sterling was not a racist in hiding. David Stern and
the owners knew who he was and has been and they were content to have him be
one of them. His exploitation of poor, black, and Hispanic tenants has been
public knowledge for years. In 2009, he settled a massive lawsuit due to his
racist, discriminatory practices in housing and some shaky personnel problems
within the league have dogged his business career. Listen to Elgin Baylor now.
only problem this time was that his business politics went viral, affecting NBA
business, and commanding the attention of the media and the larger public. If
he could have gone on with his racist business orientation being a minor,
footnote in the media, none of the last few days would be happening. That’s
what’s disturbing. More disturbing, folks are already putting a footnote on
this scandal, writing it off as a teachable moment, praising Silver and ready to move on, singing Kumbaya,
“Can we all just get along” so we can get back to some good playoff basketball.
It will be
shameful if this is basically it. There’s a lot more to be done notwithstanding
our short attention span even for a good scandal. We need to remain disgusted
that the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP was about to award Sterling again.
Public censure, pressure, and interrogation of the last few days should now be
directed to the NBA owners to demand that they stand on the right side of
history and confront their own complicity in allowing the 21st
century plantation-like nature of the NBA.
in other leagues should be sharing their desire for this with their franchise
owner. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, once declared his
affection for Donald Sterling – and this was in light of the little attention
Sterling was receiving even then for his racist practices. Will Cuban, will his
colleagues, do the right thing now and vote Sterling out of the club? I love
the playoffs but I can’t love the games more than I want to see the real heart
of the NBA game finally changed.
Stephane Dunn, PhD, is a writer who
directs the Cinema, Television, & Emerging Media Studies program
at Morehouse College. She teaches film, creative writing, and
literature. She is the author of the 2008 book, Baad Bitches & Sassy Supermamas: Black
Power Action Films (U of Illinois Press). Her writings have
appeared in Ms., The Chronicle of Higher Education, TheRoot.com, AJC, CNN.com, and Best
African American Essays, among others. Her recent work
includes the Bronze Lens-Georgia Lottery Lights, Camera Georgia
winning short film Fight for
Hope and book chapters exploring representation in Tyler Perry's