The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

April 30, 2014

COLUMN: Too much dirt remains in NBA’s Sterling mess

Credit the NBA with moving swiftly in dealing with the messy matter of Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s indefensible racist ramblings, but swift action does not wash away all the dirt.

The league had to address quickly Sterling’s status to avoid a mutiny among players, and probably more importantly to the NBA’s bottom-line, advertisers.

The maelstrom that had enveloped the league was taking attention away from the playoff games, which may not be a bad thing for despondent Thunder fans whose team now is one game away from elimination in the first round of the playoffs.

The uproar started late last week when gossip website TMZ released an audio tape conversation between Sterling and a young gal who goes by the name of V. Stiviano in which Sterling (age 80), was upset that Ms. V. (age 31) had posted online photos of herself with Magic Johnson.

Sterling apparently was most distressed his young friend (really not sure how to refer to her, and Sugar Baby seems crass) was posting pictures of (gasp!) black people with her and (gasp!) bringing black people to Clippers games.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” Sterling asked in the tape, and the conversation pretty much went downhill from there as the octogenarian owner continued to rail against associating with black people, which is rather remarkable for a man that owns an NBA franchise.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver slapped Sterling with a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine and the owners are expected to pressure Sterling into selling the club. The move saved millions in potential lost revenue and a potential boycott from the Golden State Warriors, whose players revealed they were prepared to boycott their playoff game against the Clippers on Tuesday if Silver hadn’t taken the action he did. And one has to assume Clippers players were finding it very hard to be motivated to play for a man with such views.

Of course, numerous questions remain. Sterling has a long history of racial issues and surely the NBA knew about this. After all, former NBA great Elgin Baylor filed a suit (that failed) alleging Sterling created a hostile environment with his views and Rollie Massimino is reported to have stormed out of an interview for the Clippers head coaching gig when Sterling was alleged to have made racist remarks about his players.

Just as surely the NAACP had to know before it bestowed upon him a humanitarian award and was about to honor him again before the tapes came out.

And speaking of the tapes, Ms. V. now claims she is “devastated” the tapes got out and never intended to harm Sterling. The first part stretches the limits of credulity, but the latter is no doubt true, after all her “relationship” with the married Sterling has allegedly netted her some fine accouterments, such as a $1.8 million duplex and several luxury cars.

There also is a matter of the recordings themselves being apparently illegal as California law requires two-party consent for a conversation to be recorded, short of a warrant for a wiretap.

The whole escapade should also make everyone a bit uncomfortable. When is a personal conversation off-limits? How many times have those among us said something untoward in private conversations that were never intended to be made public?

The NBA may have taken steps to wash its hands, but there is too much dirt in this tawdry mess to assume the grime will come off so easily.

Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at daver@enidnews.com.

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