The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Columns

May 7, 2014

Primus Mootry: The Donald Sterling incident — bigger than basketball

Every now and then some relatively isolated thing happens that wakes us up to new realities, stirs public debate, and creates broad controversies. Such is the case with the widely publicized chatter between real estate magnate and LA Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling, and his 30-something-year-old racially mixed paramour, V. Stiviano.

My interest is not to repeat the ins and outs of that pathetic conversation. As television journalists aptly noted, Sterling’s remarks are bigger than basketball. In fact, were it not for his ownership of the franchise, Sterling would be just an obscure “fat cat” lurking in luxurious wealth with racial and other attitudes that belong in the gutter.

It’s those attitudes and a few other issues that were raised during his chat with Ms. “V” that, as far as I’m concerned, deserve at least brief discussion here. These attitudes and issues include the racial confusions that continue to dominate in what is supposed to be a “post-racial”€ society; our upside down cultural values; and the meaning of wealth.

Also, although I in no way defend Sterling’s remarks, I do believe the issue of privacy needs to be discussed. After all, his remarks were surreptitiously obtained by a sports magazine, TMZ. Should those very private remarks be the basis for sanctions on anyone, wealthy or not? I think, too, that there ought to be some discussion of business ethics. If I own a candy store, do I have the right not to sell my candy to potential customers whose skin color or sexual orientation is different than mine?

As to the racial confusions, think about it. Here is 80-year old Sterling chatting with his half-Mexican, half-black girlfriend about not being seen with Black athletes on the Internet or in public. I’d say that was pretty weird, except this very situation has been a fact of life in American society at least since the days of Thomas Jefferson and his black slave wife, Sally Heming. In short, these racial confusions are nothing new at all.

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