Racism in the NBA


If we ever had doubts about the existence of racism in the NBA, it was proven with the resurfacing of Donald Sterling’s ignorant and idiotic feelings about black people. Look, I’ve often said that racism is dying (something I truly believe), but there is no question that it still exists. When I’ve addressed racism in previous rants articles, I’ve said that the responsibility for ending it lies with all of us, regardless of what ethnicity, gender, or sexuality we may be.

So what should be done with Sterling?

I could come up with at least a thousand brilliant hypothetical scenarios to teach this fool a lesson (ranging from making him sit in the upper deck of Staples Center without security to have him take the same boat ride that so many Africans had to in the 15th century), but the reality is none of these have a chance of ever happening, and whilst I love having a joke about nearly anything, this certainly is not the topic to do so.

Firstly, let’s have a look at what Sterling said when he was talking to his 20 year old, uh, girlfriend (I’m not sure if that’s the right term for their relationship, but whatever, we’ll run with that):

“How about your whole life, every day, you could do what you want?” Said Sterling “You can sleep with [blacks], you can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it and not to bring [Black people] to my games,”

Sterling went on to single out Magic Johnson (who is, for all you non-sports fans out there, African American) by saying: “Don’t put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games, OK?”

The entire audio (I’m assuming it’s a phone call? But that doesn’t really matter) can be heard here: http://www.tmz.com/videos/0_wkuhmkt8/ (wow, who would’ve ever thought I’d be linking to TMZ?)

Then we have to take into account his history (check out his Wikipedia page) of racism, and you can understand why this is such a gigantic story in the middle of the NBA playoffs. To have an owner of a team with such divisive and ignorant views is a black eye on the entire sport of basketball. Every player, every fan, every coach, every sponsor, every TV network that covers the league, this is all a reflection of them.

This may seem abstract, but bear with me for a second: We, as fans, we love this game, but not because of the owners. We love it because of what happens on the court. We come for the product, which is what we see on the hardwood. Some owners are charismatic, but do you really think people go to Dallas Mavericks games because of Mark Cuban over Dirk Nowitzki? No way. My point to this is the owners, whether we are comfortable with it or not, exploit the players. Yes, the players are paid very well. Nobody is denying that. But the owners are turning in such a huge profit, and it’s based all off the players (and coaching, too). So for an owner to have such an intolerance for African Americans, who make up over 75% of the players (Source: NBA.com) is beyond reproach. And when you combine that with the fact that Latino’s are now the majority ethnicity in California, (source: rt.com), you can see why this is such a volatile situation.

And it has to be. It cannot be ignored. If we want to see racism eradicated in society, lowlifes such as Sterling need to be shunned. But are we willing to make that stand? Bill Russell was willing to do it in the 50’s and 60’s when certain cities didn’t accept blacks as equals. I think The Clipper players have to boycott game 4 against the Warriors. And Golden State (along with the rest of the league) players should join them. Yes, I get that this is playoffs and teams are trying to win a championship. But what is more important to them? Promoting equality, or “doing your job”? If they view their job as more important than making a stand, then I don’t want to hear one word out of them complaining about the Riley Coopers of the world. If they want to wait until the league validates the audio of Sterling, fine. And if the NBA kicks him the hell out, then sure, no boycott needed. But if it’s validated and the league only fines him, then that’s not good enough. A boycott will be needed.

A social media movement does sweet fuck-all. Neither does this article. For all its faults, I love the NBA, but I believe in equality more than I believe in anything else. If Sterling is not banished from the league, that’s it, I am done. I will never watch another game. I’ll finish my NBA top 50 countdown, because that’s the reason I started this website, but that’s it. I can’t, and won’t, sit by and watch all the work done by Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Jackie Robinson, Dr Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy come undone because it’s simply inconvenient to me. Sometimes, we have to be accountable as individuals to make society better. I’m prepared to make that stand.