It is the whole world in “solidarity” against one odious, bilious, broken down, old President Obama supporter named Donald Sterling. And now he is banned for life. The world’s “solidarity” is animated by a painstakingly obvious truism, entails absolutely no risk, and really comprises no actual battle. It is in short, the only battle the 21st century man is willing to join: an utterly safe, souped-up fashion parade built upon vacuous, self-important sloganeering that no reasonable mind could take issue with—except on the matter of the legal remedy of a forced sale. In this vein, the whole debacle over the racist identity-politicking of Donald Sterling actually represents both America’s primary and secondary sins—misdirected attempts to remediate the politics of race.
And the whole affair is genuinely pathetic. From the mobbish outcry to strip an idiot of his property rights, to the NBA’s veritably befuddling eagerness to push the issue, to the resultant unfairness of all this for the only true victims—Clippers players and coach Doc Rivers—it “stinks to high heaven,” as Charles Barkley said. All of it comes as sheer distraction to the Clippers amid a demanding playoff matchup against the Golden State Warriors.
Through all the silly, color-coordinated outfits, rhyming chants, and twitter protests, those on the anti-Sterling side—that is, from what I can tell, everyone—appear to want to depict the fragile 80-year old as immensely more powerful or publicly supported than he is. Therein lies the political game, as seasoned opponents of identity politics will surely recognize.
While I agree with the mistakeably sagacious Barkley that the prospect of the Clippers’ forfeiting Game Four or Five of the First Round Series would have been “ridiculous,” those who deem Sterling any more threatening than a cross-eyed, liver-spotted, schizophrenic old liberal do not really have the luxury of doing so. As the single sin the Left is willing to acknowledge, this has to be made into some sort of crusade, complete with its own chants, battle cries, ceremonial garb, hated foes, and long odds. And if the deluded rantings of an old sinner can be made to appear threatening to civil society, then I suppose the Clippers really should forfeit the rest of their historic season; the league and/or the government really should strip Sterling of his lawful property right; Obama and the nanny state really should become more intimately involved in the private idiotic sentiments of cultural outliers.
Belying the public’s mishandling of the affair are at least two frightening “get aways”: a) extra sins that Sterling ironically “gets away” with, and b) sins that other major NBA players and commentators “get away” with.
First, if you have not noticed: Sterling’s screed betrayed a foul, basically overlooked misogyny in the form of “open” relationships with his wife and his mistress V. Stiviano. No feminist myself, the relative paucity of remark on Sterling’s naked misogyny is nevertheless totally bothersome. No one cares.
The second get away underlying all this clamor found its best expression in a David Aldridge article from Monday, which admonished that even with little or no legal recourse to remove Sterling’s property right in the Clippers, the League “should try anyway.” (So much for the rule of law!) “A player with Sterling’s track record when it comes to women and minorities,” Aldridge dubiously assures his reader, “would have been kicked out of the league years ago.”
Clearly, Aldridge has gone too far. I love the game as much as he does. I love it for its sublime level of skill and for the occasional appearance of a genuinely heroic man who betters the sport by palpable show of the manly virtues (e.g. AC Green, Derek Fisher, David Robinson). But such men number in the extreme minority. And the foils for such men are the heavy majority in the NBA.
In fact, three of the earliest loud voices marshaled against Sterling were those of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant. These three basketball greats (this list might well comprise a ‘best three all-time’ list) comprise a different sort of list in the field of all-time, public marital catastrophes. Recall Magic’s now infamous road trip ménage a trois-es (or 4’s or 5’s), Jordan’s unconcealed public gamblin’, drinkin’, and womanizin’, Kobe’s dalliances with women of questionable character . . . .
If these guys were exceptions among NBA players, then fine. But road-trip philandering is a more common chaser to the fourth quarter in the NBA’s regular season than overtime. Just ask Laker Showtime-era AC Green, who would reportedly spend lonesome post-game time in his motel room reading the Bible during road trips, pitifully encased by cacophonous walls on either side and perhaps a noisy ceiling as well, while basically everyone else on the team engaged in the audible night life of the bacchanal.
Finally, a sort of grotesque crown gem in the realm of basketball womanizing is legendary NBA commentator Marv Albert. If you don’t know the story, have a look: let’s just say the term “womanizing” breaks into several possible meanings in the perverse case of “Marvelous.”
Albert, along with Kobe and all the rest, was ushered back into the NBA “family” with open arms with never a mention going forward. As such, Aldridge’s insinuation that NBA players usually act or speak respectfully around women seems risibly deluded.
This brings us to the other half of Aldridge’s remark, the more contextually pointed one in the matter of Sterling: race. Another eager, early voice to the fray in the Sterling matter was that of commentator and ex-player Jalen Rose.
Openly advocating for a forfeit/boycott of Sunday’s Game Four (which the Clippers’ players and coach were hoping against), Rose said: “Your owner comes out and compares the treatment of blacks to the treatment of dogs. He says, I give these guys food, I give these guys cars and I give these guys homes. It’s demeaning. It’s embarrassing. They’re a lot more mature than I would be, a lot more responsible than I would be.”
While I have never met a driving or a homeowning dog, it is certainly true enough that the current Clipper team handled Sterling’s hateful remarks more maturely (notwithstanding the puerile warm-ups stunt) than would have Jalen Rose, who a couple of years back established himself as one of the NBA’s preeminent racists. In ESPN’s 2011 “30 for 30” film The Fab Five, Rose created a senseless row with former Duke player and NBA gentleman Grant Hill, by articulating his race-based hatred of the opposing NCAA team, Duke, and its players. “For me,” Rose explained, “Duke was personal. I hated Duke. And I hated everything I felt Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms.”
Hateful. Literally. And so, Jalen Rose repudiates David Aldridge’s insinuation of a utopian National Basketball Commune uncompromised by the tincture race-based hatred. Repeat: Jalen Rose and the other members of the Fab Five hated on the basis of race . . . to staggeringly little public criticism. The league swiftly and silently censured Rose, and the affair was over with before it began (unlike the current imbroglio).
The very next year, following Super Bowl XLVI, in a radio interview, Rose reprised his openly racist stance by referring to New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski as having gotten “white boy wasted” after losing the big game. For those readers who are not white, male basketball players, on the court “white boy” is the perfectly discriminatory equivalent of its more dreaded counterpart racial term (viz: a Latin term for black, in a southern accent). Thereafter he issued one of those smirking, perfunctory apologies usually issued by coerced eight year-olds: “Earlier in today’s show . . . I made some comments that other people — some people — took as insensitive remarks, so for those that took it that way I definitely apologize. Pretty sure I always say things that upset people, get under people’s skin. I guess today was no different. So I’m sorry for the pushback.”
One can be sure that Donald Sterling also has said one too many things “that upsets people, gets under people’s skin.” While Sterling has not issued even as much as Rose’s eight-year-old-ish apology—“sorry for the pushback”—the NBA should have dealt with him swiftly and silently (as it did Rose) and get back to what is already being hailed as the “greatest NBA playoffs ever.” We NBA fans don not want or need to be instructed on race relations; we want to be entertained. If the much speculated upon “Article 35” of the League’s Constitution allows for the stern, lawful punishment of Sterling, great. If not, too bad. Either way, get on with basketball: it is highly ironic and more than a little unfortunate that the League has deigned to sully the most entertaining playoffs ever by over-publicizing and overdoing what should have been at most a private censure.