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Sterling’s rant- racism or something else?

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It’s big news when the President of the United States takes the time to comment on it during a press conference while on official business in Malaysia. When the recording of remarks allegedly made by The Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling went public the twitter sphere, news outlets, talk shows, pro sports locker rooms and every venue where people gather erupted with disbelief, anger and calls for his head. Accusations of racism have been everywhere- and understandable given what has been released so far.

Along with the call of “innocent until proven guilty,” until the recording can be verified as authentic- there is also the possibility of a different interpretation if the remarks made were taken out of context. This is not unheard of- remember the forced resignation of Shirley Sherrod over something she never really said? But apart from these, could there be any other interpretation other than blatant racism? A closer examination of the relationship of Mr. Sterling and Ms. Stiviano and the context in which this conversation occurred could point to a different motive.

Sterling who is legally married but separated from his longtime wife for years has been dating Stiviano- who also happens to be black and Mexican. Last month, Rochelle Sterling filed a lawsuit against Ms. Stiviano that accused her of targeting extremely wealthy, older men for profit. Mrs. Sterling detailed the amount of the couple’s money that has been used to buy expensive gifts, and accused Ms. Stiviano of taking possession of a $1.8 million duplex through fraud. Ms. Stiviano countered in a court document of her own. Now along comes this tape recorded by Ms. Stiviano- and it wouldn’t be a stretch to wonder if seeking payback isn’t a motive here. This kind of negative publicity wouldn’t help Rochelle Sterling win her lawsuit either.

Then there is the relationship itself. Mr. Sterling is much older than his girlfriend and the term “sugar daddy” definitely comes to mind as he has lavished her with gifts and material benefits for her time and affection and he gets to be seen out and about with a beautiful, young woman on his arm. Then what does she do? She starts showing up at games with attractive, prominent athletes of color and posting pictures of herself with them on Instagram for all to see. Here is the girlfriend of this wealthy, powerful man flaunting her relationships with the very kind of men that Mr. Sterling has helped to achieve status and wealth.

It’s not a stretch to see jealousy as a motive here. After all, Sterling has to pay for her affection, but these guys don’t. They are much younger, physically fit and virile- all things he can’t compete with. They are also people of color, like his girlfriend. Perhaps Mr. Sterling’s apparent tantrum was a reflection of his bruised ego and need to help himself feel superior to his competition. There is also the possible embarrassment he may have felt as people like to talk and these pictures could give them something to talk about.

The issue of race and racism has been in the news a lot lately, here in the Nation’s Capital and around the country. Therefore we should be careful not to view everything through the prism of race. Regardless of the words, it’s important to look at what is behind them if we want to really understand what someone is saying and why.