Few things are as disgusting as the sight of a big business enterprise swaddling itself in morality and sanctimony, proclaiming its high ethical standards.
I'm looking at you,
But as we've pointed out, Sterling would have the option to go down fighting -- in court, if necessary.
Please let it be so.
Make no mistake, I don't think Sterling is an appropriate owner of a major league sports team. Yet that's been evident for decades, or almost since the day he acquired the then-San Diego Clippers in 1981. But a nasty fight over the Clippers ownership may be what it takes to really turn this case into a teachable moment. The teachings won't make the NBA look good.
To suggest that the league's fellow owners had their eyes opened to Sterling's true nature just in the last couple of weeks by publication of an audiotape of his private racial musings is a sick joke. Former Clippers GM Elgin Baylor asserted in court papers in 2009 that Sterling told him he wanted the Clippers to be composed of "'Poor Black boys from the South' and a White head coach." The team, Baylor said, was "structured in conformity with Sterling's dictates."
Silver, who says he was "personally distraught" at the "hateful opinions" he heard Sterling utter on the recent tape, had been deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the NBA for nearly three years when Baylor's accusation was made. How "distraught" was he then?
Silver said the league followed that case, which ended with a jury verdict against Baylor, very closely. No kidding. Baylor named the NBA as an original defendant in the case.
Let's not forget the discrimination cases brought against Sterling by the government and housing rights groups in 2003 and 2009, both filled with assertions of racist remarks and behavior by Sterling, both settled out of court for millions.
This is the ancient device in pro sports of pretending that the value of ownership is based on annual profit-and-loss, rather than on long-term capital appreciation. One can put the claim in perspective by noting that the value of the Clippers, if Sterling can be goaded into a sale, has been estimated as high as $1 billion. He bought the team in 1981 for $12.5 million.
Sports team owners' self-image as forces for all that's good and uplifting in American society is desperately in need of some truth-telling. History shows that the progressive impetus in sports comes chiefly from the athletes, not the owners. Sure, Branch Rickey brought
Racial injustice is far more a historical hallmark of professional sports in America than racial equality. The Nation's Dave Zirin runs through a few other examples of sports' misplaced self-praise.
A swift resolution of the Donald Sterling case can only help to paper over this noisome history once again. A long, drawn-out legal battle over the Clippers, however, will provide occasion to recapture reality. It might even lead to new revelations, since Sterling is the longest-serving NBA owner and surely knows a few things. We might even end up paying more attention to the anti-gay comments of Rich DeVos, the