A few days have passed since a bomb was dropped when a recorded conversation between Donald Sterling and his girlfriend, who goes by V. Stiviano, was leaked by TMZ. Sterling has acknowledged that he said the words mentioned which forced NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to act fast and harshly. Sterling, 81, has been banned from being involved with the NBA for life, fined $2.5 million dollars and has found himself in a situation where he can be pressured to sell the Los Angeles Clippers if three-fourths of owners want him out of the league. Unfortunately, this situation should not be as much of a “surprise” as the mainstream media has presented it to the interested public.
While quite ridiculous his statements are a microcosm of how many hold negative views towards the players on the hardwood; Sterling as well. This situation involving the Clippers owner is not the first situation he's found himself in that has been marred with racial overtones. Those familiar with his words and actions are probably not too surprised by what they heard on the tape that was released this past weekend. Many of those moments have been mentioned by former players and office personnel, but none were ever caught on tape like this time around. His punishment is justifiable to most but his actions speak to a larger conversation that must be held.
Racism in professional sports is not a new problem. The conversation is even more of a difficult situation when it involves the National Basketball Association which is a league that is majority African American males. Time and time again the negative perceptions that are attributed to the league rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times.
One example is the tweet that Minnesota Representative Pat Garofalo sent this past March where he stated “Let's be honest, 70 percent of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + would motive a difference w/ possible exception of increase in street crime.” Even though he immediately deleted the tweet and posted an apology, it's clear that he has ill feelings towards the league due to the racial demographics of those on the court.
ESPN once published a controversial column in 2008 that provided survey results of sports fans and revealed that many believe the NBA is the league that's in the “most trouble.” The respondents felt that the league had the athletes that were most likely to “carry guns, have an entourage and even cheat on their wives.” Often times people assume that professional athletes aren't the most pristine of people, but how does one explain these types of results?
It would be a stretch so say that the NBA has a perception crisis. In fact, the “crisis” is within the people who make the assumptions about said players based on nothing more than their skin color. Yes, there are examples of NBA players who may not act accordingly to what is considered acceptable within society; but the same can be said for individuals across all sports – both male and female. Former Commissioner David Stern was questioned whether or not the league he oversaw was suffering from an image crisis, in which he responded with an empathic “no.” Unfortunately, his views are different than what it seems a good portion of the viewing public hold.
Donald Sterling's comments are filled with disgust towards the National Basketball Association and even the players that are on his own team. Even though the league goes well above the call to ensure that its athletes are receiving the best in PR treatment, it's unfortunate to think that there are many watching behind a screen who would echo similar sentiments. At a time when the league and fans should be focused on the exciting NBA post season, the conversation has turned to an ugly topic that reaches well beyond the three-point line.