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Donald Sterling and Occupy NBA: Adam Silver's First Test

Media wating for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to start press conference regarding Donald Sterling Photo Credit: Glenn Gilliam/What's The 411 Networks Media wating for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to start press conference regarding Donald Sterling


Now that some of the dust has settled following the NBA press conference and the Clippers victory, I'd like to offer a few thoughts on the recent revelations regarding the racist declarations and unfortunate history of discrimination by LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling and the varied responses to them.

First, what is most important and unfortunately, always under-reported when these racially charged events arise, is the connection this particular revelation has to the broader cultural context of institutional racism and plutocrat entrenchment evidenced in the real time decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) last week that upheld the ban on affirmative action at the University of Michigan. The SCOTUS made this ruling while "legacy" for the rich and elite never gets touched and it also equated money to speech with the Citizens United decision.

Other issues with broader racial cultural context include: the vote on unionizing the student athletes at Northwestern University initiated by their black QB; the settlement paid by EA Sports to college football players after years of using their likeness for huge video game profits; recent election voter suppression efforts and the assault on the Voting Rights Act on its 50th anniversary; the difficulty in securing equal pay for women and by extension, blacks & Latinos; the obstacles to raising the minimum wage and fight against unions; the impediments to the President of the United States (POTUS) and Attorney General's efforts to roll back mandatory prison sentences against non-violent drug offenders; the NFL's effort to legislate the N-word out of pro football after the Incognito vs Martin texting/bullying scandal; Riley Cooper's N-word outburst; Clive Bundy's rants about blacks and slavery; Paula Deen's racist comments; the beliefs that Mitt Romney holds that corporations are people and that 47% of Americans are freeloading, non-taxpayers that don't assume responsibility for their lives and are dependent on the government; and the continuing persecution of our first black POTUS by the right and Republicans.

Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. Occupy Wall Street, try Occupy NBA...NFL...MLB, you get the idea.
The thread that stitches all of these events together is the growing disparity between the 1% super affluent and the 99% middle and working class and poor and how race has historically been exploited to maintain the divide, increase power (economic & political) and a perpetual cheap labor underclass. Sterling represents all of these dynamics as Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor painstakingly recounted in his wrongful termination suit, "he wanted the Clippers team to be composed of poor black boys from the South, with a white head coach."

This is echoed in the comments Sterling made to his mistress, "I support them and give them food and clothes and cars and houses. Who gives it to them? As the New Yorker's Ben Greenman wrote on Twitter "It's not just Donald Sterling's ignorance that's the problem. It's the decades that ignorance has been tolerated because of wealth."

As far as what the NBA presented yesterday, while I don't share the euphoria that many expressed, including all past and present players, and Clipper fans, I'll credit the Commissioner with doing the minimum he had to do, given the global implications and urgency of enforcing some tangible punishment that would help stabilize the crisis and minimize advertiser and fan defections in the middle of their premier showcase, the PLAYOFFS. Timing is everything and I can only imagine if this recording showed up in July instead of April, during what most have observed as some of the best first round playoff basketball they can remember.


The massive assembled press, of at least 200 waited anxiously, leaning forward every time the podium door cracked open and after a prolonged delay, Silver emerged with all the stress of this first nightmare for his administration, etched on his bespectacled face. He expressed that he was outraged and distraught and said Donald Sterling is banned for life from the Clippers and the NBA. But he also curiously admitted during the Q&A, that Sterling's history of well documented bigotry had no influence in determining the lifetime ban but the owners will include his public record of lawsuits and shameful prejudicial behavior and comments as part of their review in casting their vote to force the sale of the Clippers. Silver must have gone to the Chris Christie School of Incredulous Press Conferences, please.

Silver said he was "shocked" when he first heard the audio file and wished the audio recording was not Sterling or had been doctored and I could only conclude, that again, he appears to want to protect Donald Sterling and would assume David Stern felt the same when earlier allegations and lawsuits were filed. For Silver to say he was shocked either makes him exceedingly naïve, incompetent, or a fantastic liar only interested in maintaining the status quo and all of these are unacceptable. As written in an article for CBS Sports, Gregg Doyle makes it plain, 'Sterling's awful statements made it clear he considers African Americans beneath him and it didn't surprise anybody." Maybe if there was a black Commissioner or at least some C-Suite level blacks at the NBA, maybe there would be more sensitivity to actual discrimination that could be checked at the source early on.

"There's plenty of blame to go around. It's not only the NBA that allowed Donald Sterling to be Donald Sterling though. We did it, we accepted him. Hell, we enabled him. Every ticket you bought put money in his pocket. Every jersey you paid for. Every game that came and went without a protest outside Staple Center, by fans of the NBA, of basketball, of simple human decency. You allowed this.
Every column we never wrote, begging the NBA to rid itself of the canker sore that owns the other franchise in LA. I accepted this. Every contract an NBA player and coach signed with Sterling, they enabled this."

Just as the Dow Jones winning corporations, media and by extension government lobbyist and the elected officials they control, didn't want to acknowledge or respond, except by police force, to Occupy Wall Street, so did the NBA wait until the last minute.

Going forward, fans, players, coaches, advertisers, sponsors, and guardians of the game at the Commissioner's level must not ignore the signals. We all must be well-informed, courageous, and vigilant about addressing all inequities when confronted or known. If necessary, we must protest, direct our dollars, support firms or organizations that value our community in order to make substantive progress. We draw the line in the sand here, no one-- owners, commissioners, or the so-called entitled is above scrutiny or sanctions.

Lastly (for now), I think Adam Silver owes Elgin Baylor a long overdue apology, just saying.


This commentary is the opinion of Glenn Gilliam and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of What's The 411 Networks

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