Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling will no longer be a recipient of the NAACP’s lifetime achievement award. NAACP interim president Lorraine Miller made an announcement on NBC’s ″Meet the Press″ early Sunday morning. This adds to the woes Sterling has earned as a result of certain comments of his which were deemed racist by many, including his own team.
Sterling’s problems began when it was found that he had asked his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, to remove photos of black people from her Instagram account. He was also recorded asking her to cease bringing black people to Clippers games. This, despite the fact that most of the team is comprised of black men whose hard work and talent garner Sterling millions of dollars per year. The comments even prompted U.S. President Barack Obama, himself black, to condemn Sterling’s comments as ″ignorant.″ Former NBA superstar Michael Jordan characterized the remarks as ″sickening and offensive.″
LeBron James, forward for the Miami Heat, said that Sterling’s comments had ″no room″ in the world of professional basketball. Since the game is largely comprised of black men, James’ comment is particularly poignant. What is surprising about the statement is that it must be uttered at all.
The world of sports is about honest competition. The best players win the day, regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation. Though the world of sport has seen a fair share of racism in the past, to see that it is still fighting this scourge in the present is rather shocking. To see that business leaders are still holding onto ideas of a racist nature is doubly troubling.
In an era of boundless information, where knowledge and ideas spread at the speed of a mouse-click, to remain in such an unevolved attitude is inexcusable. The NAACP’s rejection of Sterling is a clear reminder of what needs to be done when faced with statements like those from Sterling.
The Clippers’ Sunday playoff game was kicked off by a silent protest from Clippers players. The players warmed up in inside-out shooting shirts and left their warm-up jerseys in a pile at the center of the court. The courage of these players to stand up as a united voice against their corporate owner is laudable. Sterling’s free speech comes with consequences not only for himself as a public figure but for the black men who work for him. If they were to not speak up, if they were to accept racism lying down then they would be complicit in the behavior.
As President Obama pointed out in a Malaysian press conference on Sunday, the nation still struggles with its history of slavery, racism, and segregation. However, when organizations such as the NAACP and the Clippers team members speak out against comments from people like Sterling, the country and the world moves a bit closer to a new wave of understanding and compassion. Many believe that such a wave is already starting and that comments like those made by Sterling will be a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future. One can only hope.
Commentary by Hobie Anthony