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Donald Sterling a man under fire

I don't think I did wrong
I don't think I did wrong
Photo by Photo by Ronald Martinez


One of the great and wonderful things about being an American is that we are protected by the rule of law. In fact, our system says a man, or a woman is innocent until proven guilty.

However, in today’s fast-paced world and its ever-present Social Media with its ever-prying press, many people are condemned even before the facts are in. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am defending no one who might have done wrong, I am merely pointing out what the ground rules of fairness are.

I come from a large Immigrant family. The family exponentially has grown even larger during the three generations of my life. In fact, it is with pride that I say we are a multiethnic clan. I have cousins of many different skin colors.

You know what, we are all one and we care for, defend and love each other equally. That is America today... An ever- developing “Melting Pot” that has enjoyed over 200 years of growth and much progress in the way of race relations.

As I reflect, I remember that my immediate and small neighborhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts was a perfect example of this. We had many different religions and nationalities, but we all got along.

Charley Durakis was Greek. Dick Tufenkjian was Armenian. John O’Neil, well his family came from Ireland while there were of other Jewish families and too many wonderful Italians to name.

Growing up in my parents’ home I learned to be color blind and respect everyone. Not only those who talked differently, or their skin color was not like mine, but the poor as well… and believe me during the Great depression when I was growing up, there were many disparities, but only one common denominator. We all wanted a better life and we all loved sports.

For us, as kids, sports were what united us. However, on this day of “Holocaust Remembrance”, it is a crime that the son of immigrants, Donald Sterling who rose from the depths of poverty to one of the privileged 30 Americans who own NBA Franchises, should be accused as a racist forgetting where he came from.

Basketball is an American game invented in Springfield, Massachusetts by Dr. James Naismith in 1981. Its growth has been dramatic. However, it wasn’t until the 1950/51 season that the color barrier was broken. During that year, The Boston Celtics drafted Chuck Cooper out of Duquesne as the first black player. He joined the Celtics and played in the NBA for six years.

However, although Chuck was drafted first, Earl Lloyd was the first Black to play in the NBA as his Washington team opened the season one day before the season was scheduled to begin. Moreover, in 1950, Chuck was a consensus All-American on teams that featured Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman and others who are now in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

That same year Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton joined the New York Knicks and helped them to win a championship. He had played with the Harlem Globetrotters, the All-Black team that was so good that in February, 1948 beat the World Champion Minneapolis (Los Angeles Lakers) 61-59 in a game for the ages.

As a matter of fact, the struggling BBAA (NBA) in those days would have doubleheaders featuring the Globetrotters to bring in the audiences. The Globetrotters as the featured game earned the biggest share of the purse each time.

This then is the heritage that today’s owners enjoy… a struggling league in its embryo stage had to turn to a “Black” touring team to help save its very existence. It has succeeded from those days when the black players could not even stay in the same hotels with their teammates to a professional league that is light years ahead of other pro sports in terms of African-American leadership both on the bench and in the front office.

My pal Ernie Vandeweghe who was Sweetwater’s roommate in those days has told me many a story of how hotels did not want a Black Man to sleep there, so the Knicks as a unit would stay elsewhere and boycott the bigoted hotels.

I hold no brief for Donald Sterling. I have interfaced with him many times over the years. For the first 5 years of the Clippers L.A. existence, the late Mike Kasino and myself had four seats in the same row as the Sterlings. He was too much to take.

I saw him on a few occasions publically berate his own players during a game and in plain view of fans at the Sports Arena. To be honest, I do not remember whether they were Black or White. But his actions were definitely irrational and reprehensible.

My pal Jerry Berger and myself share a concern for the Los Angeles Times newspaper. The current troubles of the narcissistic Mr. Sterling may cause him to pull pages and pages of self-aggrandizing ads touting the good he has done for so many philanthropies and thus putting a large dent in the paper’s revenue.

There are many who give a great deal to charities, yet they do not tout their deeds. Their only reward is the good they do

Mr. Sterling has had a long running reputation as not being the league’s best owner. He has had many run-ins with both the private and public sector for discriminating practice. The U.S. Government has sued him in court. Basketball legend Elgin Baylor sued him for discriminatory practices in terminating his employment. So, Mr. Sterling for many years has had few supporters of his behavior.

His actions have endeared him to no one. Yet, this alone is not enough to convict him of the heinous crime of prejudice based on his latest action unless it is proved. Many solid citizens are calling for his head. Then there are also opportunists like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who immediately in seeking publicity insert themselves into the fray.

For all I know, he may be guilty and if so, he should be properly punished to the fullest extent possible

But I give you, my readers another thought. Many men have girlfriends, or mistresses and from time to time they lavish gifts on them. Perhaps they put them up in an apartment, subsidize them and occasionally bring presents.

Mr. Sterling’s gifts to Ms. Scivino do not appear to be that of a man thinking logically. I mean 2 Bentleys, a Ferrari and the purchase of a $1.8 condominium are a little much! RIGHT?

Here’s what I think! He is probably prejudiced, but as a fellow octogenarian, I have witnessed many close to me suffer from dementia.

Is it possible that Mr. Sterling suffers similarly?

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