From Donald Sterling, “I’m Sorry” Was Too Little, Too LateMay 12, 2014
It’s hard to imagine how Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, could have disgraced himself any more deeply after recordings of appallingly racist remarks he made in a conversation with a friend came to light. There’s unpleasant, there’s nasty, there’s “I can’t believe anything that vicious actually came out of the man’s mouth,” and he managed to exceed even that. Those comments, including a personal attack on superstar Magic Johnson, literally left me speechless, and led the NBA to fine Mr. Sterling $2.5 million and ban him from basketball for life.
I haven’t written about Mr. Sterling’s initial diatribe before now because it took place in a private conversation. Disgusting as his remarks were, I’ll admit to struggling some with the ethics of criticizing him for comments that he never intended to see the light of day. Nonetheless, Mr. Sterling’s non-apology during an interview with Anderson Cooper has taken me off the fence. He did the old “sorry if I offended” dance (gee, Mr. Anderson, ya think?), argued that 35 years in basketball should somehow counterbalance his comments, and blamed the whole thing on his friend, as if she put those hateful words in his mouth by “baiting” him. From what he said, Mr. Sterling isn’t sorry – he just wants to keep the team. It was an appalling performance that, to me, demonstrated that he doesn’t get it and probably never will.
Unlike many mothers, I don’t necessarily believe that every famous human being on the planet has to be an ideal role model for small children. However, both the law and common decency require employers to protect their employees from virulent racism, and that applies to sports teams as well as corporations. I believe that the NBA has an obligation to protect the Clippers from Donald Sterling. If he truly wants to make amends, he should sell the team and let his suspension stand.
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