In an op-ed piece for Time magazine, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar questions whether the reaction to Donald Sterling is entirely fair.
He calls the publication of Sterling's private conversation with V. Stiviano "sleazy," and questions why the racially charged comments attributed to him were drawing more ridicule than his well-documented history of racist acts.
Abdul-Jabbar says the public is caught up in something he calls "extreme finger wagging."
"He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing," Abdul-Jabbar writes. "It was public record. We did nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?
"Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen's privacy in such an un-American way?"
Abdul-Jabbar says he's angered by Sterling's comments. The former Laker says Sterling is a villain in this situation -- but wonders whether he's the only one.
"Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out," Abdul-Jabbar writes of Stiviano. "She was like a sexy nanny playing 'pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.' She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee."
Abdul-Jabbar goes on to say that Sterling shouldn't be the only one who is punished and that he hopes the bigger message doesn't get lost in all the noise and clamor from the media and pundits.
"The big question is 'What should be done next?' " Abdul-Jabbar writes. "I hope Sterling loses his franchise. I hope whoever made this illegal tape is sent to prison. I hope the Clippers continue to be unconditionally supported by their fans. I hope the Clippers realize that the ramblings of an 80-year-old man jealous of his young girlfriend don’t define who they are as individual players or as a team. They aren’t playing for Sterling — they’re playing for themselves, for the fans, for showing the world that neither basketball, nor our American ideals, are defined by a few pathetic men or women.
"Let’s use this tawdry incident to remind ourselves of the old saying: 'Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.' Instead of being content to punish Sterling and go back to sleep, we need to be inspired to vigilantly seek out, expose, and eliminate racism at its first signs."
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