Just when you thought Donald Sterling had said enough to get himself into enough excrement to fill the 18,000-seat Staples Center, to my amazement, he kept talking.
It seems that every time he speaks is like watching a scene from the film “12 Years A Slave.” Like most people of color who have publicly voiced their opinions on this annoying sideshow, I am not surprised to hear such bold, arrogant bigotry. Most African-Americans who have lived beyond the 1980s have experienced some level of racial, cultural or generational prejudice – either directly or indirectly.
How would the athletes of a former generation handle the situation of a team owner making racist comments?
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali faced serious jail time when he took a stand against participating in the Vietnam War. His protest and action cost him his title and millions of dollars. Jim Brown was at the top of his game and career when he walked away from the game, partly over being mistreated and disrespected by Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell. Tommie Smith and John Carlos protested the treatment of African-Americans by raising blacked-gloved clenched fists during the 1968 Olympics. Their actions resulted in them being sent home from Mexico City.
Are there any athletes of today’s generation who will take a significant stand? More than 70 percent of all NBA players are African-Americans. The athletes mentioned above acted alone, which demonstrated even more courage. Do today’s sports figures have the courage to take action, or do huge contracts and million-dollar endorsements transcend racial injustice?
If NBA commissioner Adam Silver had not issued the maximum penalty for Sterling and wasn’t aggressively pursuing having him removed as an NBA owner, would the majority of the high-profile NBA players have done more than turn their shirts inside out in protest? I seriously doubt it.
Why haven’t we heard much from basketball icon and one of the few African-American NBA team owners Michael Jordan on this issue? Is it really a lack of courage or a lack of consciousness that keeps the modern superstar professional athlete quiet and on the sideline when it comes to taking social or political actions?
Sterling’s verbal assault of Magic Johnson is ironic, due to the fact that Magic (along with Larry Bird) is arguably the player who saved the NBA, helping to making it the global multibillion-dollar product that it is today. Prior to the Magic Johnson Showtime Lakers and the classic Lakers vs. Celtics, Bird vs. Magic rivalry, the NBA was struggling with low attendance and very few TV contracts. Sterling would not be reaping the benefits and the wealth of owning an NBA team in Los Angeles without the magic of Ervin Johnson.
Just a thought: As negative as his comments were, they also resulted in some positive outcomes. I would actually like to thank Donald Sterling for five reasons:
So thanks, Donald. . . . Please keep talking.
Deon D. Price is an author and youth life skills coach who lives in Fairfield. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him at www.twitter.com/youthgeneration.