Donald Sterling has been exposed as racist, what now?

by Imogen Sian Edwards

It’s the playoff. If you are a basketball fan like me and countless other sleep deprived lunatics, you’ll be up at one in the morning desperately refreshing a dodgy internet stream to watch a match up that will occur seven times. Imagine my horror when I found out that one of my most loved methods of procrastination had been defiled by Donald Sterling’s racist rant.

Sterling, owner of the top 16 Clippers team, was secretly recorded demanding his girlfriend to stop sharing images of herself with black players. She was also disallowed from bringing them to games and being with them. Setting aside Sterling’s horrid sexism and attempts to control the female body, this is one of the worst race-related incidents to hit the NBA in recent years. But the power players and fans won’t allow him to get away with it.

Sterling spews pure segregation policy straight out of the 1950s; his main problem seems to be his girlfriend’s promotion of integration. He tells her that its fine to be with “them”, she just wasn’t to be seen with them.  I forgot to mention his girlfriend, V Stviano, is of black and Mexican descent, so what he is doing with her is beyond hypocritical. I expect that will be a very empty photo album for 2014. She also says some pretty horrible things on the tape, wishing that she could change her skin colour for him, though I suspect she has heard this diatribe before and is baiting him for the recording. Listening in I feel like I’m a dinner guest in Django: Unchained: slavers spilling their white supremacist rhetoric over a four-course meal whilst secretly keeping a “tragic mulatto” at home, right now its missing the bit where the underdog rises to victory.

One of the worst aspects of this outrage has been the commission’s delay in “ascertaining the authenticity” of the recording. In an excellent exercise in white privilege, Sterling is given the benefit of the doubt, despite this not being his first offence. Al Sharpton and others have called for a boycott of the Clippers if Sterling is not removed. Although understandable, this does prove to be highly problematic. The boycott is against Clippers games, which makes sense considering that the events would just be putting money in the pockets of a racist; however Sterling is not the Clippers, the players are the Clippers. To boycott them is to the boycott a team that has ten out of twelve African American players and one of the very few African American coaches in the NBA.  Though this is a “black eye” for the team, it is just another bruise for many of the players. When FC Barcelona’s player Dani Alves had a banana thrown at him during a corner kick, he just picked it up and ate it. A powerful symbol of resistance but also showing this is just another day in the life of a pro baller. These players have worked above such slurs, the questioning over Blake Griffins ethnicity will never cease. But if the players’ ultimate goal is to get that trophy, should we, as fans, be stopping them? Shouldn’t we be helping them the players to overcome this adversity? (Well if you’re a Clippers fan that is.)

The only positive thing we can take from this incident is the solidarity of players, past and present. Shaq and Magic Johnson have raised the issue in the media to demand Sterling’s removal; the players themselves have much more power than in previous generations. They can speak with their money, walk out with their transfer power and hit back with media presence. It is only a matter of time before some ramifications come from Sterling’s hate-speech, and though there is no guarantee it won’t happen again, we can be sure that the power of the players and the public will curb such bigotry.

Imogen Sian Edwards grew up in South London and is of Mixed African/Welsh/English hodgepodge ancestry. She is a third year History student at the School of Oriental and African Studies. She  focuses on Middle Eastern history and her thesis exams African Eunuchs in the Ottoman Court in the Late 19th Century. Imogen has produced and presented an online radio programme on travel and is Secretary General of the university newspaper “The SOAS Spirit”  



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