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


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