There are a lot of questions remaining about the strange, vile, racist comments that have been attributed to
But if it turns out that the tapes have not been doctored or misrepresented, and if Sterling did indeed castigate a female friend for associating with black people, then it is clear what needs to happen: Sterling must sell the team. If he doesn't do so on his own, the
The comments, if he made them, are a disgrace to Sterling himself, but more than that, they are an enormous embarrassment to the NBA and the city, and a heavy burden on the talented team now battling to win round one of the playoffs in its best season ever. While we generally support the right of individuals to say and think even the most offensive things, the team is not just another of Sterling's private businesses; it is also a civic institution that plays under the banner of the city of Los Angeles. The city ought not be associated with an owner who says that he doesn't want his mistress (if that's indeed what she is) bringing black people to his team's games — a remark made even more offensive by the fact that more than three-quarters of the players on the team and in the league are black. On the recording, the speaker tells the woman that it "bothers" him that "you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people."
Sterling is an octogenarian billionaire who has often been accused of bizarre and unseemly behavior; this is the latest an extensive string of racial controversies. In 1986, he was one of the first NBA team owners to hire a black general manager,
If the allegations are true, this can't be written off as just a crotchety old man caught on tape saying something disagreeable. This is the wealthy and powerful owner of a basketball team that plays in a televised spotlight before millions of fans.