This weekend TMZ stunned basketball fans and players alike when they leaked a profanity-laced recording of a phone argument between the legally married Donald Sterling, 80, and his girlfriend Vanessa Stiviano, 38. On Sunday night Magic Johnson, who was personally named in the phone call, appeared on ESPN stating in no uncertain terms that Sterling should give up ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers. See the video of Johnson’s response here.
The April 7th argument was sparked when Stiviano posted a picture on Instagram of herself and another woman with basketball legend Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. Sterling objected to Stiviano posing with black people whom he called the ‘enemy’. In a surprising twist that reads like a three-way love triangle, it was revealed that last month Rochelle Sterling, Donald’s estranged wife, filed a lawsuit against the girlfriend claiming that Stiviano preyed upon extremely wealthy older men.
Sterling, as many men with mistresses do, has lavished Stiviano with luxuries. Among some of the goodies Stiviano has received are a Ferrari, two Bentleys, and a $1.8 million duplex. Stiviano’s attorney says these trinkets are merely gifts, freely given and gratefully received. But now there are some wondering whether this whole leaked phone conversation fiasco is a big set up designed to shake down Sterling for even more money.
One looming question is that there were, supposedly, only two people participating in the phone conversation, so how was it ‘leaked’? Both Sterling and Stiviano have denied publicizing the call. Was it an anonymous crazed telephone operator randomly intercepting conversations and making them public?
Another curious factor is the stilted, almost scripted pace of Stiviano’s side of the conversation. Listen to the audio tape here. Not many people agree with Sterling’s comments, but they do have a ring of authenticity. He is passionate and he is angry. He means what he is saying and it is obvious that he believes this is a conversation that will remain strictly between the two of them.
In contrast, Listen to the way Stiviano continues to carefully guide the conversation back, time and again, to matters of race. And then she constantly repeats what he says about black people. Hardly anyone fights this way unless you’re in a marriage counselor’s office and they are having you mirror what the other person has just said to make sure you heard them properly. Sterling even asks her at one point “why are you saying this?”
And then of course is the basic question of who records conversations unless you think you might need it for evidence, blackmail, or something in the future? It will be a long time before this dies down. Without a doubt Sterling has some antiquated views of race relations. But wrong though he may be, it may turn out that it was a girlfriend scorned who was responsible for publically clipping his wings. Real estate mogul Donald Trump has come out in Sterling’s defense calling the girlfriend a terrible human being who was baiting him.