NBA Comm. Adam Silver Bans Donald Sterling, Shines Spotlight on Us
Donald Sterling just got served. NBA commissioner Adam Silver dropped an atom bomb on the disgraced owner of the Los Angeles Clippers when he announced that he would be fined 2.5 million dollars and banned for life from the league. Sterling no doubt regrets that his racist diatribe to a former mistress is dribbling circles around social media and news outlets (he would have been fine if he was at a Tea Party rally). Cliven Bundy, the slavery-nostalgic Nevada rancher involved in another high-profile racism scandal, is either very relieved or very jealous. If he had it to do over again, Sterling would probably heed the example of Republican politicians and use code words. Regardless, basketball is better off without such hatred.
But is he sorry? The only acceptable answer to that question is “who gives a shit?” Closure is the last thing Silver’s welcome announcement should deliver. Now that the criminal is behind bars (figuratively, of course), it’s tempting to go back to our daily lives as if nothing happened. This would be a mistake and it would render the entire trauma of Sterling’s racism futile. A racist’s words are important not for what they reveal about him, but for what they reveal about us.
Sterling’s words shine an uncomfortable light on the NBA and sports more broadly: owners, players, coaches, administrators and audience alike. Sure, Sterling’s abhorrent views could be an anomaly. A racist needle in a comfy haystack of tolerance. Indeed, Americans of all ethnic, ideological and political persuasions like to call racism an anomaly when one of their own is the culprit.
In fact, we should draw the opposite conclusion, without shame and without hesitation. Racism and prejudice of all kinds exist everywhere. They permeate every nook and cranny of life and can be found in those we would consider least likely to hold those views. Painful instances like this one should also serve as opportunities to examine ourselves and those around us, not only to punish transgression, but to encourage growth. Sterling’s faux pas is a famous example of something that we face every day. Acceptance is the first step on the road to recovery. It’s time for us to start accepting.