The offensive statements that Donald Sterling made illustrate some of the complicated and resilient entanglements of racism.
Before Sterling’s taped statements got out, most people only acknowledged racist comments if racial slurs were used. Otherwise, people who have insisted that America has entered a post-racial period used myriad excuses to deny that racism was involved. Racial discrimination cases because of that have had a tough time getting a fair hearing in courts across America.
Sterling’s statements to his girlfriend, V.Stiviano, changes the standard of what had been consider racially offensive. Sterling, who owns the Los Angeles Clippers, was caught on tape telling Stiviano to stop associating with black people, stop bringing African Americans to Clippers’ games and he frowned on her being photographed with black men such as L.A. Lakers star Magic Johnson.
The websites TMZ and Deadspin brought the billionaire’s comments to light, resulting in public outrage and NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday imposing a lifetime ban preventing Sterling from attending an NBA game again and hitting him with a $2.5 million fine.
The racial complication also includes Sterling, an 80-year-old, married white man, making such statements to Stiviano, a 31-year-old woman of color. His girlfriend is African American and Latina. That coupling and Sterling’s comments resurrect offensive aspects of the country’s antebellum past.
Stiviano reportedly is sad that her tape-recorded conversations resulted in such stern action against Sterling. More antebellum racial complications.
What’s clear is sports once again is taking the nation on the right path to correct its racist wrongs. People of color daily have to just swallow hard when confronted with numerous offensive acts and statements from people like Sterling. The response in the arena of sports may change that, prompting the rest of America to realize how racially intolerance such things really are.
Taking the lead appears to be the role of sports in American race relations. Sports helped change America in the 1940s with Jackie Robinson integrating Major League Baseball That led to other sports being integrated.
The civil rights movement and enlightened politicians like President Lyndon Johnson then forced the end of legal segregation. Sports’ progressive efforts have resulted in racism, discrimination and prejudice fading.
Sports in the Sterling case now instructs America that racism remains a big problem despite media pundits’ and politicians’ thunderous denials. With sports again leading the way, maybe the country has a chance to one day live the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of people being judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.