When 52-year-old NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned 80-year Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life April 29 for secretly recorded off-color remarks, the politically correct crowd went overboard. Recorded by his lady-friend 31-year-old V. Stiviano, Sterling told his girl-Friday to not associate or bring blacks to Clippers games. Sterling comments recorded secretly exposed, as Stiviano admits to ABC “20/20’s” Barbara Walters, a different “generation,” one growing up in a less politically correct culture. Stiviano’s recording took down her boss as far as the NBA was concerned, prompting Silver to give thumbs down on Sterling’s NBA career. Receiving a standing ovation from the politically correct crowd, Silver becomes the hero while Sterling’s demonization continues unabated, becoming the latest casualty of political correctness gone wild.
Outrage spread like the plague over the airwaves and cyberspace, leaving no escape for the octogenarian, watching his towering life swept away like a primitive adobe hut. By the time Sterling could pronounce his name, he was so vilified, so demonized, so degraded, so disgraced, Silver had no choice but to evict him from a very select fraternity of NBA’s billionaire and multimillionaire owners. “We stand together condemning Mr. Sterling’s views. They simply have no place in the NBA,” said Silver, banning Sterling for life and fining him $2.5 million. “It bothers me that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to,” Sterling said on the tape causing the tsunami that brought down his promising NBA empire. “Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league.”
NBA officials don’t really know that Sterling harbors racist views other than his words expressed in a secretly recorded conversation. Sterling’s “views” were apparently so non-racist that he was slated to receive the 2014 humanitarian-of-the-year award from the NAACP. Yet the media sees fit to dredge up a federal slumlord lawsuit that cost Sterling a $2.7 million no-fault settlement as proof of his “racism.” When Sterling told his girl-Friday that she “broadcasts’ her association with black people, he referred to an Instagram post with Magic Johnson, the former Lakers Hall-of-Fame guard that routinely made the Clippers look worse than a high school basketball team. Sterling’s privately recorded statements were classless and distasteful but are not proof of racism. “I think Mr. Sterling is from a different generation than I am,” Stiviano told Walters, refuting the NBA’s racist characterization.
Stiviano denies that she sold the secret recording of Sterling to Harvey Levin’s Hollywood gossip site TMZ, insisting she gave them to a friend for “safekeeping.” “I think he [Sterling] was brought up to believe these things . . . segregation, whites and blacks. But through his actions he’s shown that he’s not a racist. He’s shown to be a very generous and kind man,” Stiviano admitted to Walters, contradicting Silver’s wholesale denunciation of Sterling the racist. Working for Sterling in various capacities, more-or-less as a girl-Friday, Stiviano was showered with fancy cars and a $2 million duplex. Faced with a volcanic backlash against Sterling from the African-American dominant NBA, Silver had no choice but to ban the LA real estate mogul for life or face an imminent boycott of the NBA playoffs. No matter how distasteful or classless, Sterling didn’t get due process.
No investigative journalist or private investigator has turned up any stitch of evidence about Sterling contributing or affiliating with any racist group, dredging up a federal fair-housing settlement as proof of his racism. Stiviano told Walters she thought Sterling should apologize. Yet no one’s heard hide-nor-from Sterling since Stiviano’s recording went viral April 26. No mea culpa. No apology—not even a peep other than some specious rumors about Sterling saying the team wasn’t for sale. “I think he’s highly more traumatized and hurt by the things that he said himself,” said Stiviano, though admitting she hasn’t talked with Sterling since TMZ ignited the media firestorm. Apart from making some off-color remarks, Sterling’s not a racist, any more than other good-old-boys from the nation’s network of elite private clubs. Silver scapegoated Sterling to save the NBA playoffs.
Sterling’s complete disappearance suggests that he’s not fit to respond to his public flogging by the NBA and headline-hungry media. His ugly words, whether said publicly or privately, reflect his lack of judgment, perhaps hinting at some cognitive impairments. Showering gifts on a thirty-something with questionable background and motives also doesn’t bode well for Sterling’s judgment or, for that matter, his fitness to own and NBA franchise. Using such racially-charged language is reason enough to terminate Sterling’s NBA franchise. Showing that kind of racial insensitivity can’t be tolerated in a sports league dominated by black athletes. Calling Sterling a racist, imputing evil motives to his offensive words or dredging up irrelevant evidence of racism doesn’t justify wholesale defamation and character assassination. Crossing the politically correct line doesn’t excuse all the hype.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’d editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging the Bullet and Operation Charisma.