It’s sad that we need to have this discussion, but it’s a discussion we need to have. The audio that surfaced over the weekend was troubling. It was hard to listen to, and reports have surfaced that there are hours more where that came from. It’s been widely reported that the male voice heard on the audio clip was that of Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. In a disturbing conversation with his then-girlfriend, the male voice can be heard making very insensitive racial remarks. He talks about the society we live in (and how he perceives it), as well as the power he possess because of his ownership position in a league I love dearly. “Do I make the game, or do they make the game?” the voice attributed to Donald Sterling says. The National Basketball Association, the other 29 owners, and first-year Commissioner Adam Silver need to do what they can to insure that a person with this mindset no longer has the opportunity “to make the game” as he put it.
Donald Sterling has a track record filled with lawsuits alleging housing discrimination and sexual discrimination, as well as a suit from former Clippers general manager (and NBA Hall of Famer) Elgin Baylor alleging racial discrimination. All that being said, Sterling was set to receive a second award from the NAACP until these comments can to light. How does a man with Sterling's past, and archaic mindset towards people of color, position himself to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from an institution with a history of fighting for the social justice of African-Americans?
Some may question how this (and possible hours of recordings) was acquired. It was obvious that these recordings were made without Mr. Sterling's knowledge, capturing the mind behind the man. It was clear to me Ms. Stiviano had been coached to, or steered the conversation we've all heard, in such a way as to elicit certain responses from Mr. Sterling. One questions why she would do this. Did she do this to out a racist, or for some personal gain? Either way, the truth has come to light about a man who pulled the wool over the eyes of many, including an organization with the prestige of the NAACP.
With this cloud hanging over the head of the organization, the Los Angeles Clippers played a basketball game on Sunday, a game they lost to the Golden State Warriors 118-97. Donald Sterling did not attend the game, nor will he attend Tuesday's game, as the scene shifts from Oakland to Los Angeles. Some have talked about protest. Some have suggested sponsors pull their support of the team. It will be up to these entities to respond how they see fit. As for myself, as long as Donald Sterling has a role in the NBA, I can no longer support the NBA. Action needs to be taken to remove Mr. Sterling from decision-making, as well as any leadership positions, he holds within the NBA before I can watch or listen to another game.
Leadership isn’t just about the person or people in charge. Leadership comes from the followers. Once the followers decide not to follow, the leader becomes powerless… and leadership shifts to those the people see fit to follow. By acting swiftly, Commissioner Silver has a chance to lead... and earn this follower once again. Suspension until further and more permanent action will suffice for now, but something is better than nothing.
Anger doesn't begin to describe how I feel about what was said in the audio clip we've all heard. After anger, came sadness. Sadness that a man like Donald Sterling was allowed to maintain a position of leadership for so long, even with glimpses of his true colors revealed in the lawsuits filed against him, and those who were closest to him. As a man of faith, I will forgive. As a man of color, I will not forget.
-Joseph Haas, HaasStyleInterpretations.com
Join the conversation on Twitter @JerseyHaas or send me an e-mail JosephHaasNFL@Gmail.com. You can also find me covering the New York Jets at HCoftheNYJ.com and Saturdays on the Green & White Show.