Demise of White Owner in Black NBA

By Lloyd Graff

Sterling with ex-girlfriend V. Stiviano

Donald Tokowitz, born in Chicago in 1934, is a great American success story. His immigrant parents moved to Los Angeles when he was two years old and changed their name to Sterling. Son, Don, has lived the American dream, of sorts, becoming a divorce lawyer investing in L.A. real estate and then buying a pro basketball team. Back in the early ’80s, late L.A. Lakers owner Jerry Buss, with whom Sterling had real estate dealings, encouraged him to buy an NBA franchise of his own. It was a great chance to have some fun, get good tax breaks, meet women, and make a killing. And Sterling did, first with his San Diego Clippers, then the L.A. Clippers.

I’ve long been fascinated by Sterling because he is the archetype of the brilliant scoundrel who doesn’t care what people write about him. He just goes on about his business, doing it his way — piling up his millions, winning awards from the local NAACP chapter, and racking up a record of sports failures rivaling the Chicago Cubs. His final undoing is almost the perfect tragic ending. His erstwhile mistress, who he claims embezzled $1.7 million, set him up by taping a conversation that sounds flagrantly racist by today’s standards. Ironically, she, herself, is of African-American and Hispanic background. Sterling had been scheduled to get a second NAACP Man of the Year award in a few days. That one was canceled.

Sterling, by most accounts, is a billionaire and a rogue. At 80 he has amassed a fortune, lost a son to a drug overdose at age 32, and now finally — after hiring a terrific black coach, Doc Rivers, also a Chicagoan, to push the State Farm spokesman, Chris Paul, and the Kia symbol, mixed-raced Blake Griffin — he was on the cusp of an NBA Championship. Now he’s forced to sell the team for about $500 million and be a footnote to American racial history.

Race in America is such a colorful issue. I sympathize in a way with Sterlng. I imagine that in his own mind he is a champion of African Americans. As an owner of a team in a league comprised of 76% black players, an employer of a black coach, and having a long list of black acquaintances and a mixed race girlfriend, Sterling could have been a symbol of American racial change in his lifetime. But race in America is not simple.

I’m 10 years younger than Sterling and also from Chicago. Dealing with race in America is extremely complicated and subtle. Sterling was an easy target because his history is public and his utterances so politically incorrect. If he made his remarks at a cocktail party fundraiser for Patrick Leahy, the most liberal Senator in Washington, to whom he contributed money, it might have never surfaced. But an angry African-American former mistress is no Pat Leahy. And at 80 years old you’re not so careful about your words.

Sterling is a 1950s kind of guy, an uninhibited white guy living in a black NBA. It’s a really hard combo unless you are a Zen master from Montana.

America has moved so much in Sterling’s lifetime, in my lifetime. But most old white guys like Sterling still live with the prejudice and stereotypes of childhood. Sometimes on the way to the NAACP fundraiser they can forget who they are supposed to be and revert to the crude L.A. divorce lawyer they started out as. Sterling really wanted to win an NBA title this year, but regardless of what the L.A. Clippers do, his name will always be associated as nothing more than a pathetic anachronism of American racism.

Question: Was it fair for Sterling to have been banned from the NBA for life because of racist comments he made in a private conversation?

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32 thoughts on “Demise of White Owner in Black NBA

    1. AvatarJosh

      The first amendment doesn’t protect you from private criticism/response when you say stupid things.

  1. AvatarJosh

    I dread the comments to follow, but I’d like to open with some quotes from an article I read earlier today.

    “While he did have some rights violated, his First Amendment rights remain intact.”

    “The First Amendment protects you from the government punishing you because of your speech. The NBA is a private club, and it can discipline Sterling all it wants.”

    “What about the chorus of criticism? Are we all violating his First Amendment rights by criticizing him? We are punishing him for his speech.”

    “Nope. The First Amendment does not insulate you from criticism. In fact, that’s the First Amendment in action. That is how the marketplace of ideas works. We float our ideas in the marketplace, and we see which idea sells.”

    The whole article get’s a bit deeper into how he was violated. He is a bigot, but his privacy was violated and he was essentially blackmailed. We all say things in private that we wouldn’t want the world to hear. The real violation here is that he was surreptitiously recording in an attempt to defame his character. Was it deservedly defamed? Perhaps, it does seem he’s been involved in some questionable activities in the past but I won’t be the judge of that.

    What we do need to acknowledge however is the criminal immoral act committed by those who recorded him and leaked this private conversation to the press. Everyone is quick to vilify Sterling, and somewhat rightfully so as I don’t believe there is any place for bigots in our society but that doesn’t change the fact that he had his right to privacy violated. It doesn’t change the fact that there are two bad people in this story. Where is the outcry against her blackmail tactics?

  2. AvatarAl

    Yes – playing around with younger women – money will buy some things, but not creditability – or allow you to speak out in a derogatory manner

  3. AvatarJeremy

    I am no supporter of Sterling, honestly never heard of until this week (not a basketball fan). If his comments had been made in a public forum or a televised event, then fine. He got what he deserved. He is obviousily not an ideal role model (no one seems to care that he is married and at games with his mistress). However, I question the standard this sets; Does he have a right to free speach ? (Or is that only when it aligns with the PC media ?) The whole thing smells, there is more going on here. Was the whole thing a way to force him out so “O” can buy ? ? ?

    1. AvatarRon B

      What is all this PC stuff… what does that stand for… perhaps Please Criticize (people you do not know).

  4. Avatarlance

    it is appauling to me that you can have any hateful opinion and say any hurtful thing you want in this “free” country…….as long as you aren’t an old white guy……or a conservative

    1. AvatarJosh

      You are free to say whatever you want, you aren’t free from repercussion. And he’s a liberal.

      1. Avatarlance

        others seem to be free from repercussions……and I said old white guy OR a conservative…..

  5. AvatarSteve Van Loan

    I think this is a terrible injustice. Private conversations are private and looking at what
    Don has accomplished and who he has worked with should show what kind a man he is.

  6. Avatarclayton

    Here we go with this PC crap again. Don’t expect too much in the way of comment from your audience LLoyd not that they’re scared or anything.

    Look at this way at one time or another everybody hates everybody else (have you always been nice to your brother when in a heated family debate?) and stereotypes don’t always hold up. Aren’t most murders between people (even family members) who know each other? Unless you couch your prejudice in humor you are vilified.

    Look at how Nixon carried on about the Jews…..and who was his most trusted confidant….Henry Kissinger!!! Women, for example, have always been a pain in my ass but I do love them so.

    In the South we are supposed to hate those darkies but if you happen to have a blackamoor friend or neighbor or long time loyal employee….just let some one else talk about that person…..see LLoyd the world is backwards and we all are entitled to our prejudice. It isn’t so much what you say as what you do.

    Here is a joke of my own invention that is PC incorrect or maybe correct…..but is it funny: Did you hear about the Politically Correct Tourretts Syndrome sufferer?: N-word, N-word, N-word! Let’s see how many people we can insult in one joke! (smile)

    You helped elect the least qualified man ever to seek the Oval Office and one part of that is you didn’t want to be racist. I forgive you (the country may not) but I think always having to apologize is destroying free speech. Lincoln said “better to be thought a fool than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”. I don’t think the full story is out on Mr. Silver Balls but jumping on him and ignoring Snoop Dog takes away my free speech on some level.

    The next time a Puerto Rican midget lesbian cuts me off in traffic I want to be able to let them know how I really think… that moment!

    Consider yourself posted!

    1. AvatarRon B

      Speak for yourself… the world according to Clayton… hate, hate and hate. No, everyone does not hate everyone else… the hate word was never allowed in my house… Mom & Dad would have none of it (God rest their soul).

  7. AvatarBob

    This is getting ridiculous, an old white guy says something in private about not bringing black guys to a game, did not racially slam them, did not call them disparaging names, just stated what he expected of his mistress. And what happens? He is crucified for it. What in the hell is so “hurtful” about saying not to bring a black to his stadium? He is obviously paying for that ticket for her and the guy she is bringing. This is so much crap and I cannot believe the NBA is pulling the team from him. I would hope that he spends his billions on lawyers to fight it.
    Yet it would not even be reported if this guy Sterling were black, why is that? Blacks are as racist as whites and Hispanics and Asians, it is human nature, like it or not. If this were indeed cruel and hurtful and this guy said it in public, well shame on him. You tell me one person who, in their life, has never said anything negative about another race and I will be amazed.
    Time for America to grow up and quit being a bunch of overly sensitive people, if you were to think about it, this political correctness started about the time of the industrial decline of this country, probably no correlation, but it makes one wonder where this country is going.
    I have Black, Hispanic, and Asian friends or acquantence, as well as White. And I would never tell any of my Black friends that I was sorry for what this guy said, it is his right as a US citizen to say this, right or wrong.

    1. AvatarJosh

      The NBA is a private organization that can do whatever it wants. It sucks, but it’s reality. Don’t say stupid things if you don’t want backlash.

    2. AvatarRon B

      I find this whole story hilarious… ever been burned by a woman’s scorn… ouch. When you play the big money game (Celebrity) with models as mistresses, you are public… where do you think the money comes from. This guy has a history of bigotry and you have people lining up to defend him… you know why? Because they’re not celebrities… about the only celebrity (I know of) that has offered support is Mark Cuban who suggest what most people realize… you need to be careful what you say (even in private) because someone may find motive to reveal.

  8. AvatarBob

    Clayton, we forgot something. Who are the people that brought this horrible national disgrace to our attention? Ahh, yes, the media. I firmy believe that a large amount of our social problems are caused by the media. Correct me if I am wrong?

    1. Avatarclayton

      Right Bob…the biggest bigots in the world but why point out the obvious – The World and Life is unfair…..oh I the answer NEWS / MONEY / and relatively unintelligent and economically and historically untaught which if, if I may use this opportunity to point our is the result of our PC school system that will teach a young black or white guy Beowulf but not a Beruf he can use to take came of his future family….for shame!

    2. AvatarRon B

      Oh yeah… the media is the problem. Yeah, you’re right Clay, if it wasn’t for those darn reporters… if, if, if. If birds had transistor radios around their necks, the world would be filled with music. Ever hear of the very first amendment… you probably skipped that one to proclaim the second… inaccurately.

  9. AvatarArt

    I too smell something fishy here; do not get me wrong, I love Magic and I believe Sterling is just a dirty old man and just got burned. A better question may be If the comment would have been ” I do not want you taking pictures with white guys” or the instagram would have been with Clayton Kershaw instead. Would the freaking media would be having such a field day?

  10. AvatarBob

    Damn, on a soapbox now. The terrible tragedy in Washington State from the landslide, never really got first story coverage here in Chicago. Twisters in the South, terrible destruction, followed up by what story on the news? Right. The white guy in LA. Where the heck are our priorities these days? Sensationalism sells.

  11. AvatarSteve

    Really! let’s all take a breath… The next time anyone (any color) cuts me off in traffic, I’ll just give them more room. Having cut off many a drivers over the years myself.

    If the NBA wants to teach Sterling a lesson, let him keep the team. If public is that upset, (all colors), the public can stop going to games, sponsors can stop advertising and the team will decline in value, Ouch!

    It’s a good thing we don’t sent people to jail for ignorance, or we’d all be there.

  12. AvatarNick

    This story isn’t about political correctness out of control. It’s about Donald Sterling’s being found out to be a hypocrite and a blatant rasicst, by his own words. Though there was talk about a history of discrimination, it was mostly hearsay and resolved in court. This one is very different. He said it. Everyone heard it. There is nothing to dispute. Some people don’t care if a boss or acquaintance talks out of both sides of their mouth. If they stick around it’s because they get what they want out of the relationship. But everyone has a line. Very rich basketball players can easily go play for another team. Fans and sponsors can decide for themselves if they want to support a team owned by the guy who said what he said. The NBA has to make a call based on what they think is in the best (financial) interest of the NBA. This is about nothing more than people deciding if they are getting what they want from the relationship. All the chatter about PC this and PC that and Sterling being an old white man, and dragging Obama into it (oh I almost forgot, he has responsibility for every controversy)… doesn’t matter. It’s about deciding if the relationship is worth it. And the answer for most people who matter in the decision is, no.

  13. AvatarDennis

    We all say things that are not polite and hurtful to our loved ones at times.
    We have too much time on our hands and who dat that live in them glass houses????

    I actually find we are all assholes in one way or another so who has the right to control what we say in what we believe is a private settings???

  14. AvatarKelly Sutherland

    I, like so many others I did not know who Mr. Sterling was before this story broke, nor did I care. The remarks that have been reported may have been inappropriate, but I do not agree with the leagues actions on this matter.
    I firmly believe that the market should decide Mr. Sterling’s fate. If his players, advertisers and ticket purchasing customers think he should be sanctioned then they can stop patronizing his team if they see fit.

    1. AvatarRon B

      The NBA is an elite members (owners) league… the NBA commissioner answers to the owners… the Clippers are nothing without the NBA… the NBA revenue shares… sponsors are running… everyone looses money… any questions?

  15. AvatarMarvin

    The media gives us this crap as NEWS. They should never have reported this, and should stop reporting similar events.

  16. AvatarAl

    More than just what he said, but – the use of money to support a lifestyle that unfortunately is accepted in todays world of declining morals

  17. AvatarDick Crosby

    I/we’ve been seeing and hearing the judgment/conviction of Mr. Sterling for days now. I agree he’s a sad case of an intolerant, unpleasant human being. But! He does have a right to express his views and opinions, even if you/we don’t like or agree with them. At least in this country. So far! Thank God for the privilege! The old men of this country were wise beyond their imaginations.
    Besides the apparent fact(s) that he’s got a record of being an _ _ _ , and despised by many, has he done anything illegal?
    His words and attitudes will, perhaps already have, destroyed him. But I don’t think all the holier than thou general public, media, and NBA judges are without sin, and need to crucify him to the degree being displayed. I’ll bet SCOTUS lets him off, if it gets that far, with the exception of certain of the NBA rules and bylaws.
    If the NBA has final jurisdiction in the matter, then so be it. But he is an American citizen, and entitled to our privileges. Feel somewhat sorry for him. He’ll stand before a higher judge than public opinion. As we all will.
    Let’s get off his case. The Mrs. and i are sick and tired of seeing and hearing it hashed over and over again. Enough all ready!
    This country’s got bigger fish to fry than Don Sterling.

  18. AvatarJOL

    Bigger fish to fry quite true.

    Wish the POTUS would worry about Putin or his health care nightmare instead of weighing in on this useless topic that has taken the media into a frenzy the past week.

    I asked for the news to be turned off at work on Monday after three hours of the same two stories – Sterling and flight 370. Nothing on the BLM and Bundy or barely a blip regarding Ukraine being overrun. Why is that not important to MSM?

    Heaven help us these are the things to get up in arms about??!?! Seems just another way to divide the people and keep your mind off the real trouble. Just wait til you can write about the dollar losing it world reserve status Lloyd, betcha get some good comments when you get to discuss that problem when the dollar goes south!


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