In just one week, the NBA has banned an owner for racist remarks, the Supreme Court ruled on banning affirmative action in the college admission process, and Buffalo police were caught on cell phone video kicking and hitting an unarmed black suspect.
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|"We're not race blind. And it's not equal for blacks and whites. And until there is a level playing field , you can't say we should be a race blind society, because we are not."
-- Buffalo area civil rights icon George Arthur, NAACP Board member, former City Council Pres.
|In Studio In Depth: Hear John Zach and Susan Rose with Rev. Darius Pridgen, Buffalo City Council Pres. & Rev. Kinzer Pointer, Agape Fellowship Baptist Church|
|Pointer on Race & Generational Issues CLICK TO LISTEN
Both on Discrimination, Dignity CLICK TO LISTEN
Pridgen & Pointer on Police Brutality CLICK TO LISTEN
Pridgen & Pointer: Racism's Widespread CLICK TO LISTEN
Former Buffalo Bill Jeff Nixon has worked with at risk youth across the region almost since the day he retired from football and he says the racial issue certainly resonates on basketball courts, where kids look up to the players and some in college could even look to the NBA for a career.
"I I think that they look at that and they think racism is alive and well in the United States. It's not the kind of thing that young people that are aspiring to maybe play in the NBA some day want to see, obviously, .. I don't think they would want to play for an owner like that... it's got to be very uncomfortable."
|" I absolutely think it was appropriate. I was proud of Adam Silver. I know Adam.. and in his short times commissioner he has certainly sent the message that he's going to ensure that the league is a league that everyone can be proud of"
"I don't think Donald Sterling represents the tenor the tone or the overall makeup of the NBA at all."
- Bernie Tolbert
Former NBA Executive and Buffalo Mayoral candidate now running for a seat on the Buffalo School Board
"It think they understand that there is some level of racism that older generation people have," Kingsbury says. .
Nixon blogs extensively on racial issues and weighed in early on Sterling calling for blacks and Latin Americans to boycott the games. He says the Sterling case is a sign of the times.
"We seem to have come a way on racism you know, but then you have things like this that remind you it is still prevalent and needs to be dealt with." Nixon says.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (Pictured R) heeded the demands of many and delivered one of the harshest penalties in the history of U.S.. sports: a lifetime ban from the league and a $2.5 million fine. Despite Sterling's donations to black causes and the rich contract he gave the game's top black coach, Silver also promised to convince owners to force a sale of the Clippers over the 80-year-old Sterling's "hateful" demands for his 31-year-old girlfriend not to broadcast her association with black people.
"We can't remove racism from American society any more than we can remove murder.But just because we can't remove it, that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight it."
"He has a right to his beliefs, to his thoughts. He has a right to free speech. He doesn't have a right to be an owner of an NBA franchise," said Dr. Harry Edwards, a scholar of race and sports who has worked as a consultant for several professional teams.
Wayne Embry fought racism for decades, by refusing to let it defeat him. Drafted into the NBA in 1958, when quotas limited the number of black players, he was the only African-American on the Cincinnati Royals, and later became the NBA's first black general manager. He wrote the book "Inside Game: Race, Power and Politics in the NBA."
He thinks that Sterling's punishment is appropriate, and sends a powerful statement: "Such ignorance cannot and will not be tolerated."
"Not just in the NBA," said Embry, who now works in the Toronto Raptors' front office, "but it's an important message to send throughout society."
"Sterling's mentality sets us back 150 years," Embry continued. "We are not going back there. So yes, action needed to be taken. It sends a clear message that as a league, and as a society for a diverse people, we are not going back there."
A variety of factors converged to extend the fight against racism into the heart and mind of Donald Sterling.
"In this country, people are allowed to be morons. They're allowed to be stupid. They're allowed to think idiotic thoughts."
"But regardless of your background, regardless of the history they have, if we're taking something somebody said in their home and we're trying to turn it into something that leads to you being forced to divest property in any way, shape or form, that's not the United States of America. I don't want to be part of that,"
. So when Sterling provided such a rare and obvious example of bigotry, it sparked a sort of feeding frenzy.
"In general, people in society tend to be very dismissive of claims of racism unless it is really overt. Short of a Klan rally, people generally won't accept charges of racism," said Todd Boyd, a USC professor who studies race and sports and is author of the NBA book "Young, Black, Rich and Famous."
Boyd noted that Sterling had escaped basically unscathed despite years of racial missteps. The billionaire had paid a $2.76 million settlement to resolve a federal lawsuit accusing him of systematically excluding blacks and Hispanics from his rental properties. A wrongful termination lawsuit by general manager Elgin Baylor described various slurs and slights.
Sterling won the Baylor case. As his racial problems mounted over the years, he donated enough money to black causes to receive two lifetime achievement awards from the NAACP. He hired Doc Rivers, one of the NBA's top coaches, and gave him GM powers and a contract worth $7 million per year.
Still, when an audio recording of Sterling's comments was leaked, with Sterling telling his girlfriend things like, "it bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people," it provided an easy opportunity to address a longstanding issue.
Retired NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was bothered by the sudden outrage. "What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn't just his racism," he wrote on Time magazine's website. "I'm bothered that everyone acts as if it's a huge surprise."
"When something like this comes out and it's so blatant, it's embarrassing for a lot of people who want to believe that they live in a society where racism doesn't exist. A lot of them might be white; a lot might also be black."
"There also are a lot of African-Americans in society who, it's almost as though they're waiting for moments like this to prove their blackness," Boyd continued. "It gives them an opportunity to say, I'm protesting, I'm boycotting. Get this racist out. It sort of gives their life meaning."- Prof. Todd Boyd, University of Southern California Author of the NBA book "Young, Black, Rich and Famous."
Boyd also sensed some opportunism among those calling for Sterling's ouster.
"When something like this comes out and it's so blatant, it's embarrassing for a lot of people who want to believe that they live in a society where racism doesn't exist," he said. "A lot of them might be white; a lot might also be black."
"There also are a lot of African-Americans in society who, it's almost as though they're waiting for moments like this to prove their blackness," Boyd continued. "It gives them an opportunity to say, I'm protesting, I'm boycotting. Get this racist out. It sort of gives their life meaning."
Sterling presented such a huge and rare target, few people stopped to wonder whether punishing someone for private thoughts, instead of actions, was a good idea. What would then prevent other opinions from being targeted?
Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Mavericks, was among the few. to speak out before the decision, yet agreed with it afterwards. Cuban said it was based only on the audiotape and not Sterling's history, and tweeted that he agreed with the decision "100%."
So Sterling is banished. He did not release any comment on the decision Tuesday. Sterling is a lawyer, and he has survived a U.S. government lawsuit accusing him of racist actions.
He may not go quietly after getting banned for racist thoughts.While Donald Sterling's lifetime ban from the Los Angeles Clippers was greeted with widespread acclaim Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's decision raised a host of new questions for the owner's long-troubled franchise.
WHAT WILL IT MEAN FOR FANS, SPONSORS & STAFF ?
It's too soon to know whether Silver's sweeping ruling will return sponsors to the Clippers and the NBA, but the Clippers' long-suffering fans in attendance at Tuesday night's game appeared to lose little faith in their players.
The Clippers' top executives are unlikely to be shuffled in the short term, particularly while the team is still involved in the NBA postseason.
Team President Andy Roeser has been a loyal Sterling employee for many years, while Coach Doc Rivers (pictured L) also has a say in personnel decisions.
After the news of Sterling's comments broke last weekend, Rivers clearly questioned whether he would stay with the team that pried him away from the Boston Celtics a year ago with a lucrative contract. The championship-winning coach said he still hadn't made up his mind before Game 5.
CAN HIS WIFE OPERATE THE TEAM? in the first few hours after Silver's landmark decision, the Clippers didn't know whether Sterling's wife, Rochelle, would be eligible to take a leadership role with the team in Donald Sterling's absence. Donald Sterling (pictured left with girlfriend V. Stiviano) wasn't a micromanaging owner, but the 80-year-old real-estate mogul still presided over the team's major decisions, including the hiring and firing of innumerable executives and coaches in the past three decades.
"There have been no decisions about other members of the Sterling family," Silver said. "This ruling applies specifically to Donald Sterling and Donald Sterling's conduct only."
That language likely means Rochelle Sterling, who has been estranged from Donald Sterling for many years, is still welcome for now at the Clippers' games at Staples Center and their state-of-the-art $60 million training complex built in Playa Vista in 2008. The NBA hasn't yet specified or determined what her long-term future with the Clippers might be.
Rochelle Sterling has played a nebulous role in running the team in the past, and it's conceivable she could be allowed to assume a figurehead position in Donald Sterling's absence before the sale of the team, which could drag on for months and years if Donald Sterling is determined to fight. Despite years of separation, the Sterlings co-own many items in their vast wealth portfolio under California's community property laws.WHO ARE THE POTENTIAL BUYERS? : If the Clippers go on sale, the potential buyers include several of the world's wealthiest men.
<< At Left, Sam Wright protests against Sterling, outside Staples Center before Game 5 of the Clippers' opening-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Magic Johnson, Mark Walter and their Guggenheim Partners group in the billion-dollar purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers are possible bidders for the team. Billionaire music mogul David Geffen and real-estate tycoon Rick Caruso both have already indicated interest.
Patrick Soon-Shiong, the biotech billionaire often described as the richest man in Los Angeles, bought Johnson's share of the Lakers in 2010, but could be interested in owning his own team. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has attempted to purchase several sports teams in recent years, but been rebuffed despite his vast fortune.
Perhaps the buyer could come from elsewhere, too: Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and music mogul Sean Combs both claimed interest in buying the team Tuesday.
Financial interest in professional sports franchises is at an unprecedented high. The small-market Milwaukee Bucks attracted nine bidders before selling for $550 million to finance executives Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens.