By Ken Reed
The Los Angeles Clippers are a better franchise without Donald Sterling. The NBA is a better pro sports league without a racist owner. And the country is better off with a long-time discriminator moved to the shadows of society.
I’m thrilled Donald Sterling is gone. I think he’s a lowlife with a life-long record of scumball, racist behavior as one of California’s most notorious slumlords. Good riddance.
But there’s a part of me that feels there’s something that just isn’t right about how this whole thing came down.
Do we really want to live in a society where tapes of private conversations, sleazily obtained by a National Enquirer-like media organization, can be used to publicly hang fellow citizens? Gossip rags like the National Enquirer were once looked upon with disdain in this country. Today, gossip “news” websites like TMZ are looked at with admiration. Is that a good thing?
A little over 25 years ago, another famous L.A. sports figure was canned for his racist remarks. Al Campanis was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers after appearing on ABC’s Nightline and spewing racially-charged nonsense. The difference between the Sterling and Campanis cases is Campanis made his comments in public — on a high-profile national television show — and Sterling made his in the privacy of his home while his girlfriend recorded the remarks. Whatever the girlfriend’s motive, the circumstances certainly are dramatically different from those in the Campanis case.
I’ve struggled integrating my joy for Sterling’s downfall with my uneasiness with how — and when — we, as a society, took Sterling down. I’ve had a hard time putting my feelings into words about the whole thing.
Then I came across a wonderfully thoughtful op-ed by former Los Angeles Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He provided eloquent words to match the uneasiness I’ve been experiencing internally.
“I’m doing some whooping right now,” wrote Abdul-Jabbar for Time. But “what bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise.
“He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing,” continued Abdul-Jabbar. “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 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? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and releasing of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it.”
Today, the day after the public execution of Donald Sterling’s public life, I think we can celebrate the demise of a high-profile racist. But at the same time, I think we should think long and hard about the way this whole thing transpired.
And then we should ask ourselves a hard question: Did this episode truly epitomize American ideals, principles, values, and ethics?
I’m proud to live in an America that is becoming less and less tolerant of racism and hate.
I just don’t think this Donald Sterling episode — when examined as a whole — was America at its best.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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