Although he is splashed across the headlines this week, the Los Angeles Clippers’ longtime owner and agitator has had less than a “Sterling” reputation for some time.
Believe it or not, Donald Sterling is currently the longest tenured NBA owner. That is, until NBA Commissioner Adam Silver convinces three-quarters of the other NBA owners (22 out of 29) to force a sale of the Clippers, after which he’ll just be a forlorn billionaire business magnate who will (likely) profit more than $1 billion upon the team being sold. Not even Clippers numbers guru Cliff Paul knows the bounds of Sterling’s pocketbook. You can almost hear the gold plated violin playing over his left shoulder.
There is a pretty strong consensus that Sterling is a bad dude and a general stench on the Clippers organization. Over the years, he has been involved in several discrimination lawsuits, notably involving both his copious real estate investments (with allegations that his rental philosophies fell…let’s just say shy of Fair Housing Act standards) as well as a high profile employment discrimination suit brought by former Clippers executive and Lakers legend Elgin Baylor, alleging racially charged remarks and disparate treatment along racial lines. He allegedly called Baron Davis a bastard. He has been involved in shady business practices. He has been accused of racist statements on many occasions. His fans find him creepy. His posture is terrible. But the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine levied on Sterling, announced today by Silver in response to the outrage over recordings in which Sterling made racist remarks, is still fundamentally surprising. After all, powerful people tend to squeak by these obstacles. You rarely see heads roll when it comes to rich folk in the private sector.
“In this country, you’re guilty until you’re proven wealthy.” — Bill Maher