Instead Of Calling V. Stiviano A ‘Gold Digger,’ Or Criticizing Clippers Players, Let’s Focus On Donald Sterling

April 28, 2014  |  


We’ve been focused on the unhealthy foolery of the Basketball Wives all of this time, but we overlooked the fact that the real drama just might come from the employers of their “husbands.”

I say that part-jokingly, however, the former fiancée of an irrelevant basketball player hopping over tables to beat somebody’s behind for television ratings is one thing, but a NBA team owner getting caught on tape, proudly admitting to some pretty hardcore racist views and discrimination practices is on a whole other level of F’d up.

The dangerous kind.

This latest racial “gaffe” from Donald Sterling is about his guest preference list at games, and his girlfriend’s Instagram account. It’s about his now very public beliefs that black Jews are allegedly inferior to white Jews. It’s about his treatment of women as interchangeable property.

It’s also about how all the nastiness we heard on those tapes corresponds with some pretty (and allegedly) incredulous past behavior from the Sterling family, in particular, a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice alleging housing discrimination against blacks and Latinos. This lawsuit resulted in a $2.8 million dollar fine. That’s right, this is not just about an alleged bigot, who doesn’t want you in his box seats, but it’s about an alleged bigot, who actively prevents and denies access to blacks and Latinos.

We protest Basketball Wives (and its ilk), and we threaten boycotts and petitions against other television shows for failing to represent us right. However, when it comes to speaking out and taking a serious stand against racism in the professional sports industry, particularly the NBA, we are not as forthcoming in our outrage. Yet, it is the institutionalized racism in the latter situation, which would allow Sterling’s alleged nastiness to fester for years, while ranking in millions as a franchise owner of a team with many black players. That same institutionalized racism would allow an owner to be sued by his former general manager, who alleged that Sterling saw the Clippers organization as a “vision of a Southern plantation-type structure,” and still not bat an eye about him. Despite all this, the president lamented in a press conference that while Sterling’s comments were “offensive and disturbing,” he also felt that, “All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy, which is why I’m not yet prepared to discuss any potential sanctions against Donald Sterling…”

And while there are no standards of respectability and unlimited benefit of the doubt is given for its franchise owners, the NBA has a paternalistic double standard for its league players, 80 percent of which are black. They include rules, which govern the type of language they can use all the way down to how they dress. It’s their house and they make the rules. But somehow, it is the basketball wife’s fault.

More specifically, it’s the fault of the alleged basketball mistress, V. Stiviano, the biracial (black and Mexican) whistleblower in this story. Some of us want to write off the man as just the “jealous” victim of a malicious and self-hating gold digger. Those who are not outwardly pissed at Stiviano have opted to share their anger at black people in general for a number of reasons: for not seeing this coming; for focusing on the wrong part of the story; for not speaking up fast enough or in the right tone; for daring to show up to work the next day, and for the Clippers’ mostly black players, a side-eye for their mostly symbolic protest of Sterling’s comments. There are a million and one other places where we have decided to deflect and misplace our anger – very little of it has been at Sterling.

We waste so much energy and countless time debating each other on social media and name-calling ourselves in angst in think pieces over what exactly our response should be. Should we boycott? How about protest? How come we can’t be like the gays? Or the Jews? Why don’t we build our own league? But how do you build your own inside of an existing political, social and economic structure? And what happens when they burn it down? These questions come up every single time some public figure is exposed as a racist. We agonize and debate over what the appropriate response should be to racism more than the people who offend actually agonize. Well, I’m tired of that.

I’m tired of being mad at the basketball wives, biracial mistresses and black players. I’m tired of being mad at black people because we don’t react fast, hard or soon enough. When it seems like every cot damn industry leader – from the guys who bring us toilet paper and Lycra to an owner of a sports team, mostly comprised of blacks and other people of color  – is working against the interest of black people and other people of color, isn’t it time to stop talking about how mad we are at ourselves? It’s time we really and concretely point our anger and outrage and all of our questions about what should be done exactly where it needs to go: In this instance, Sterling and the racist system, which allowed him unfettered power for years.

We are such a victim-blaming culture. We blame women and their apparel for why they are sexually assaulted. We blame poor people for being poor, even despite the fact that the majority of poor people are children and all the data suggests that the rise out of poverty, even into adulthood, is damn near impossible. And most times, we blame black folks for racism created against them. In all those instances, we refuse to name our oppressive perpetrators accurately, and because of it, the social ills of society continue on.

It is for this reason why we should stop shoving microphones in the faces of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or the starting lineup of the Clippers and demanding that they respond. We should stop trying to get Stiviano to explain the dynamics of her relationship with Sterling and instead put the pressure on the NBA and Sterling himself. Racism, including how people choose to see us, is not black people’s problem to solve. We are just not in that position, socially, economically, and quite frankly, physically (unless you possess the power of some sort of Inception-esque mind control to magically make Sterling and others decent human beings) to do that.

I hope this post has inspired some to speak more directly to power and demand accountability – in any way you can. Whether it be in the same vein as the Clippers with their symbolic gesture of disobedience, or similar to Snoop Dogg’s expletive-laden response to Sterling’s taped views. To me, it means a lot when most of us are even scared to get mad and call out abusers at all. At least these folks are mad in the right direction.



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