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Three Quick Thoughts About Donald Sterling’s Lifetime Ban From The NBA

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs - Game One

1. There’s no way this happens in 1990. Or 2000. It may not have even happened in 2010. Think about this: A White billionaire was banned from (and forced to sell) his billion-dollar business because of three minutes worth of audio that was first reported on by a gossip site. This entire process took less than a week. 

I don’t know what to call this time we’re living in. The social media era? The outrage era? The accountability era? Either way, we’re existing in a point of history where everybody is made accountable for everything they say.

Interestingly enough, Sterling’s recorded statements were about 1/100,000ths as racist as the actual things he’s actually done, which proves you can still get away with doing things. Actions are still able to be spun by the actor. Words, however, have never been more powerful. But today this power lies with the people receiving, reblogging, refreshing, retweeting, and reinterpreting them.

2. As bad of a mess this is, the Sterling controversy is actually good for the NBA. Think about it: The unanimous outrage and decisive action over Sterling’s comments allows the league to position itself as forward thinking and progressive — at least forward thinking and progressive in comparison to other professional sports leagues. An already outstanding playoffs now has attention from people usually uninterested in the NBA. And, the new commissioner (Adam Silver) was able to hit a based-loaded grand slam. No one outside of Lupita Nyong’o has a higher approval rating than he does right now.

3. I wonder if those who were so adamant in calling the Clippers “cowards” or “sell-outs” for continuing to play have ever bought a pair of Nikes…and ignored the allegations that their sneakers are made in sweatshops. Or have ever shopped at Whole Foods (whose CEO compared President Obama to Hilter) or Walmart. Or have ever eaten Chick-fil-A (whose CEO is openly anti-gay). Or are rocking conflict diamonds on their fingers and in their earlobes. Or are reading this on an iPhone or iPad possibly created by child laborers in China working 12 hours a day for 70 cents an hour.

Point? Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with how the Clippers’ players handed things, before you start the name-calling and insults, check yourself and your relationship with your “principles” first.

(For the record, I also thought a game protest would have been a great move. But, that’s easy for me to say. And I wondered if me wanting that is more about me and my own self-righteousness than it was about doing something that actually mattered. Anyway, calling someone a coward because they disagree with you about how to handle a complex situation that directly affects them — and has no effect on you — is the epitome of cowardice. That type of name-calling isn’t “making a stand.” It’s standing on the backs of those with an actual investment to make yourself look taller. It’s “cause chickenhawking.”) 

4. Conversation I had with the Gay Reindeer yesterday:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Sterling was a cuckold. Him being okay with her sleeping with Black guys kinda tipped me off.”

“What’s a cuckold?”

“It’s when a guy gets off on his woman being with other guys.”

“Interesting.” (Takes a beat) “Did you feed the dog yet?”

5. The Milwaukee Bucks — an NBA team I’m sure a few of you don’t even realize is an NBA team — just sold for $550 million. Why does this matter? Well, Donald Sterling bought the LA Clippers a couple decades ago for something like two Happy Meals and a week’s worth of free car washes. Now he is being forced to sell to his team. No official valuation of the Clippers has been made yet, but they’re a franchise in a great city that also happens to have two of the most popular players in the NBA (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin). If the Bucks are worth half a billion, the Clippers are worth twice, even three times that. Sterling’s punishment is him being forced to finally cash in on a cheap investment worth a billion dollars.

Point? Even in defeat, (rich) White men still win.

—Damon Young

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • Epsilonicus

    I always felt that the players did the right thing before going nuclear. People often talk about how back in the day, activists went nuclear. However the basic rule of community organizing is to never use your nuclear option first.

    • Tentpole

      It is always interesting to hear reflections on history from those who were’t there who never take the time to know the whole complete story. If they did they would know nuclear was always the last step.

  • dbking65

    Well said, Sir. Very nice analysis, turned around very quickly. Well done.

  • nillalatte

    Funny, I just read this…–fines-him–2-5-million-for-racial-comments-181803437.html?vp=1

    and now see your post Champ. It was swift and heavy justice. But, I am intrigued.

    I was wondering when a statement like this would come also:
    “Deadspin later released an extended version of the audio recording in which Sterling tells the woman that blacks are treated “like dogs” in Israel.” There is a certain type of Zionist produced there. I think this man is that product and just found his garden in America. *shrugs

    • menajeanmaehightower

      Blacks are treated like dogs in Israel. The country will make sure that they have their homes on the border just in case of an attack from Palestine.

  • GrownAzzMan

    Well said. They players did the right thing. They made a statement and let the process work itself out which it has. I also like your call for all of us to check our on habits before we point fingers. Point 1 and 4 are still pointing back at you.

  • miss t-lee

    “3. I wonder if those who were so adamant in calling the Clippers “cowards”
    or “sell-outs” for continuing to play have ever bought a pair of
    Nikes…and ignored the allegations that their sneakers are made in
    sweatshops. Or have ever shopped at Whole Foods (whose CEO compared
    President Obama to Hilter) or Walmart. Or have ever eaten Chick-fil-A
    (whose CEO is openly anti-gay). Or are rocking conflict diamonds on
    their fingers and in their earlobes. Or are reading this on an iPhone or
    iPad possibly created by child laborers in China working 12 hours a day
    for 70 cents an hour.”

    Great point.

    • PunchDrunkLove

      All of this I agree with….as a whole, except for the Truett Cathy statement. Most folks have a misconception that if you don’t agree with the gay lifestyle that you’re a hater. Well in fact I disagree. A hater is hating folks cause ya can. But a believer and agreeing with God automatically brings about a difference in your outlook on “stuff” like that. I know there are a bunch more sins we can name (but really why)? I don’t see him as a hater. I see him as a believer…. His choice, his stance, as gays are allowed

      Overall, I dig this post. I mean I just don’t get the bigness of it all, when the same thing happens eight days a week on the same planet. And IMO stripping folks of their glory will not change how folks are, what they think, what they feel and believe. He can become the next vagabond, sleeping in a cardboard box, yet it won’t change how he feels about blacks.

  • The owners still have to vote.

    • Freebird

      and he still has the law.

      • All the law guarantees is that he will be granted fair market compensation for the loss of his team. The whole process will take at least a month, if only because it will take that long to go through the Clippers books, share that with potential buyers, have the buyers be financially vetted, then go through the bidding process after which someone takes title to the team. So long as Sterling gets a fair market value, he has no less to stand on, as he will have been made whole financially.

        • tgtaggie

          I think I read that the he brought the clips in ’82 for around $12mil. And he’s probably will sell it for around $800-900 million. IMO, he is going at least make $500 million (at the worst) off the team. this ain’t even worth fighting for in court.

          • From a purely mercenary capitalist perspective, I’d at least go through the motions of a suit to make sure that I get fair market value. Otherwise, you’re right.

            • Freebird

              if i were him i’d fight til the wheels fell off….then i would ask some of my like-minded buddies for some money to keep fighting.

    • Amber

      Yep but I think that the move by Silver puts the pressure on them to vote him out. I doubt he would have went this hard without the support of the owners. It would have been prudent of him to have been polling the owners prior to his announcement. At this point the market (slow ticket sales, major sponsors backing out, merchandise sales and franchise player throughout the NBA speaking out against Sterling; the NBA has worked very hard to build this brand and they certainly didn’t want this to be the topic during such a high dollar period with the post-season) has decided this issue for them and Adam Silver. It will certainly be a long and complicated process but at least they are moving quickly now even though they were complicit, in a sense, with his other actions. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t vote him out or find a way to split the baby because they all know the precedent this establishes and maybe their closets have a few bones of their own.

  • Lea Thrace

    Point #3 (or as I have renamed it, The “He who is without sin” Point) and the “postscript”. Whoa. Shots aimed and FIRED. Target down. Target DOWN!

    Brilliant post Sir Champ!

  • Shay-d-Lady

    there the f!!k it is.

  • SweetSass

    K. So does this mean we can do something about the ‘Redskins’?

    • The NFL commissioner has zero power or leverage over the owners. Hopefully when Bud Selig retires we can get someone to do something about the Cleveland Indians mascot.

      • John Shannon

        As a Clevelander I loathe Chief Wahoo

      • The thing is that the team is slowly backing away from Chief Wahoo without making much of a statement. They mainly keep the old logo around as a sop to the diehards, but it’s disappearing over the next few years. Pay attention to the subtle uniform changes they’ve made. The team hardly wears the logo these days.

        • Epsilonicus

          They have announced a complete phase out of Chief Wahoo a few months ago.

    • Sahel

      I wonder if Sweet Sass’s mouth is really shaped like her avi

  • John Shannon

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