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Sports Authority

Jacobsen: Owners should reject Sterling (April 29)

| Monday, April 28, 2014

Congratulations to Daniel Snyder and Jim Irsay — for this week, at least, you are out of the headlines and off the hook.

This week’s award for the most odious behavior in sports — Owner’s Division — goes to Clippers owner Donald Sterling. It’s not even a contest. Sterling has a long history of racist behavior and discrimination suits, but over the weekend audio of a conversation purportedly between Sterling and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, made him America’s most famous racist. In the recording, a man alleged to be Sterling criticizes Stiviano for posting an Instagram photo of herself with Magic Johnson, saying she shouldn’t “broadcast” the fact she associates with black people.

I could mention how ridiculous it is that Sterling thinks it is socially unacceptable to associate with African Americans but perfectly fine for an 80-year-old married man to flaunt his relationship with a very young woman who is currently being sued by his wife. I could point out the massive amount of double-think that must be necessary for a man to demonize a photo-op with a fantastically successful and respected black man like Magic Johnson and then turn around and field a team where most of the players and the coach are black. But that is hardly necessary: I think most reasonable people in the United States realize that anyone who behaves like this is disgusting, lecherous and despicable, and it’s almost certain Sterling will be suspended from the NBA as soon as they can verify that the voice on the tape is his own. I would not be surprised if NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the rest of the owners find a way to force him out of the league in the near future.

In the meantime, we’re faced with a more difficult question: what’s a Clippers fan to do? (Don’t laugh — there must be a few in existence.)

The problem goes to the heart of professional sports in their current form. As sports fans, it’s the players who own our hearts, but the owners who control our wallets. Sure, some owners are well-liked by their fan bases and respected within their sports — Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and the Rooney family of the Pittsburgh Steelers are good examples — but you’d be hard-pressed to find a sports fan who chose his or her favorite team based on the owner.

Mark Jackson, the coach of the Golden State Warriors, has called on both Warriors and Clippers fans to boycott Game Five of the playoff series between the two teams, which will be played tonight at the Staples Center. And while that would certainly benefit his team more than it would the Clippers on their home floor, he has a point. The only real way for fans to hurt an owner is to refuse to spend money on his product.

But what about the Clippers players? They have more right to be offended by the audio than anyone else. It’s bad enough to hear the comments when they come from a person you’ve never met. Can you imagine how much worse it must be to hear such opinions from your boss, the man who has the ultimate say in your contract and your status on the team? In fact, point guard and player association president Chris Paul said the team discussed boycotting the games themselves before deciding on a silent protest before Game Four on Sunday night.

After decades as one of the worst franchises in American sports, Lob City is finally giving its fans a reason to get excited. Why should the fans turn their backs on players who have done nothing wrong, and in fact have probably been hurt more than anyone else? Why should the players be deprived of post-season success or fan support? Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Danny Granger, Doc Rivers: they should be the faces of the Clippers, not Donald Sterling.

Maybe I’m being naïve, but I think it is the fellow NBA owners who need to step in and fix this problem. They are the ones who voted him into their club back in 1981. It is their job to kick him out.

 

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