Before I get started, let me be very clear right up front.
This post is in no way any kind of defense of the in limbo, titular owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, Donald Sterling.
What I want to share is the real lesson from this Le Affair d' Sterling.
That is the repugnant hypocrisy shown on all sides of the reason Mr. Sterling now being banned from the National Basketball Association for life, fined $2,500,000 and will be forced to sell the team.
BTW, the latter will be harder because there is no way Mr. Sterling will sell right away. In fact, I think that he could very well drag this out in the courts and expose the NBA to owners just as awful and corrupt as Mr. Sterling.
To understand why the NBA and Mr. Sterling came to this point, we have to get a flavor of Mr. Sterling himself and we need to go to the beginning.
Mr. Sterling is, essentially, a product of Los Angeles. Sure he was born in Chicago, Illinois, but his family moved here when he was two years old. His family surname, which he changed to the current one as an adult, is Tokowitz. He graduated Roosevelt high school in 1952. Roosevelt high is in the Eastside of Los Angeles when it was where a lot of working working-class Jewish people lived. He went to and graduated Cal State University, Los Angeles in 1956 and attained his law degree from the Southwestern University School of Law in 1960.
Clearly, Mr. Sterling has had some problem of his own upbringing since he changed his very ethnic, Jewish surname to a very Anglo-sounding surname. As the link indicates, Mr. Sterling had to start in law on his own because the opportunities to join a named law firm in the early 1960s were not all that great.
In starting the practice of law, Mr. Sterling became a divorce and personal injury attorney. Nothing like starting at the bottom of the law chain I suppose. I believe today we call Mr. Sterling's type of attorney an ambulance chaser. He made enough of a living there to purchase a 26-unit apartment building in Beverly Hills. And that was the start of the real estate empire that Mr. Sterling made it rich.
And in 1979 in a business deal with the man who bought the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings and the then Fabulous Forum, Dr. Jerry Buss, it became his gateway to eventually buying his own team in the NBA.
And in 1981, Mr. Sterling spent $12,500,000 and purchased the then San Diego Clippers.
A digression here.
The San Diego Clippers started life in the NBA as the Buffalo Braves. A now politically incorrect team name if there ever was one. And the Braves could not hang in Buffalo and after eight seasons, moved to San Diego. Bottom line. They sucked in Buffalo and sucked in San Diego.
After the purchase of the Clippers, the Sterling ownership era began.
And right then and there, the NBA should have known that he was going to be a handful of an owner that did not care about niceties or even following the rules.
In 1982, Mr Sterling was fined $10,000 for saying that he have no problem if the Clippers finished in last place in the overall league standings so that they would be able to to have an automatic first-round draft pick.
Openly telling the league and the fans that you don't care where you finish to get a quick-fix high draft pick is a no-no in any professional sports league. And it should be.
In 1984, Mr. Sterling decided to move the Clippers up Interstate 5 to Los Angeles.
Again, another nicety was ignored by Mr. Sterling.
He needed to get league approval to make such a move. And because he did not get league approval, the NBA fined Mr. Sterling $25,000,000 for doing what he did without league approval. Of course Mr. Sterling was going to keep the team in Los Angeles and sued the NBA for $100,000,000. Eventually, the parties involved settled and Mr. Sterling ended up paying $6,000,000. I suppose that for Mr. Sterling, forcing the NBA to fine him less was worth the legal effort.
But the Sterling era truly was major suckage.
The Clippers played in the even then dilapidated Los_Angeles_Memorial_Sports_Arena from 1984 to 1999 when they joined the Kings and Lakers and play at the Staples Center.
They did not draw all that many fans during that time. They often finished in last place in the Pacific Division and league overall standings. In fact, the first winning season the Clippers had took eight seasons as they finished the 1991-91 season with a 45-39 record. It would take another five seasons for the Clippers to have a second winning season in Los Angeles.
Mr. Sterling has been until recently one of the cheapest owners in any sport. In fact The Sporting News bestowed the honor of Mr. Sterling being one of the worst owners in basketball in decades.
Mr. Sterling did not want to pay a fan that one a contest. Being that the fan was a lawyer, he had to sue to get his money. Mr. Sterling did not help defray costs when an assistant coach, Kim Hughes had surgery for prostate cancer. It took four Clipper players to raise $70,000 to pay for the operation.
And here in the LA Weekly, are some more of the reign of error that has been Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
In 1983, this is what he asked a prospective head coach, Rollie Massimino:
"I wanna know why you think you can coach these niggers?"
Nice. Very nice.
And here is a choice one.
Mr. Sterling was negotiating with Danny Manning and with the then NBA commissioner, David Stern, in the room, he made this comment:
"I'm offering a lot of money for a poor black kid."
Again, such a mensch.
But understand this.
Mr. Sterling was not just a basketball team owner. He still was very involved with real estate and development. And as with being a basketball team owner, he was a very immoral individual.
Again, from the LA Weekly, we read about what happened in 2002 when Mr. Sterling was sued one of many times for housing discrimination. Here is what the property manager said Mr. Sterling said. Keep in mind, this is under oath:
"That's because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they're not clean.. And it's because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day. I don't like Mexican men because they smoke, drink and just hang around the house. Is she one of those black people that stink?...Just evict the bitch."
Such the man. Such a compassionate landlord. Especially when he wants to evict a tenant.
And back to basketball, former Clipper general manager, Elgin Baylor, sued Mr. Sterling after he was let go by Mr. Sterling. Mr. Baylor said he wanted to fill his team with "poor black boys from the South and a white head coach". And that Mr. Sterling kept his salary at $350,000 while the White coach at the time had just been signed to a four-year, $22,000,000 contract. Somehow, Mr. Baylor lost the lawsuit.
The case against Mr. Sterling basically started from day one. It has been very important to recall some of the history because it leads to the hypocrisy that is what has occurred in current NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, and his handing down an essential death sentence to Mr. Sterling.
For many years, Mr. Sterling has basically tried to buy off all those groups that might have caused problems for him.
One is a glaring pact with the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP. He gave them money, they made him out to be a good guy. The good guy being sued for housing discrimination. The good guy that said black people smelled and attracted vermin. Before the kerfuffle of his spouting off to his mistress, one V. Stiviano, about her chumminess with Magic Johnson and why she should not show photos on Instagram and not to bring Black people to Clipper games, Mr. Sterling was to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles NAACP on May 15.
And Mr. Sterling may have kept the Los Angeles Times from going under gracing the Sunday main news section of pages of advertising touting, himself of course, his work on all sorts of charities and some of his upscale real estate properties. Sunday is the most expensive day to advertise in any newspaper and full page ads on this day cost a pretty penny.
And yet all, I mean all, of this has been known to the powers that be since the beginning.
There is no way that people did not know what kind of cretin Mr. Sterling is. What, did it really take a mistress tape recording conversations with Mr. Sterling and somehow, somehow it mysteriously leaked to TMZ? BTW, TMZ is a horrible gossip site and I am ashamed to even link to it. But there seems to be some kind of eternal justice that Mr. Sterling was outed as a horrible human being by TMZ.
What NBA commissioner Mr. Silver is doing is playing a game of CYA*. It may just work if Mr. Sterling just sells the team and slithers away quietly.
But it will not.
For if nothing else, when Mr. Sterling is not keeping the Times afloat with all his self-promoting ads, he keeps a lot of attorneys employed and rich. I guess hopefully for him, they are not lazy Mexicans and or smelly Blacks.
He will sue his way out of this. And I do not think that I would put it past him to drag other owners dirty laundry in the mix. Something that Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, alluded to. And Mr. Cuban is not a man without his own controversies.
So, after all of this, where is the hypocrisy?
The whole tenure of Donald Sterling being a sports team owner has been a case study in it. People like the former NBA commissioner, David Stern, and his basically helping Mr. Sterling become an NBA owner in the first place.
The same NBA that essentially allowed Mr. Sterling to break a big rule by moving the Clippers from San Diego to Los Angeles.
The same NBA that knew Mr. Sterling was a pretty in-your-face racist and misogynist. And a slumlord as the cherry on top.
All the race-huckster groups that took Mr. Sterling's money and looked the other way.
And all the sanctimonious crap that we have to hear now, thanks to everyone jumping all over to condemn what they already knew.
The lesson is not that there is a man like Donald Sterling and his racist, misogynist ways exists. Sadly, it does. But the real lesson is that when everyone knows it and does nothing to stop it until it gets real bad, is that hypocrisy reigns here.