NBA commissioner Adam Silver, gigantic ears and all, stood in front of TV cameras Tuesday and gave Clippers owner Donald Sterling the business.
That is, he hammered the old man for his taped racist blather, stating that Sterling was banned from the NBA for life, would be fined $2.5 million and might be forced to sell his team.
All this because Sterling got upset over his former girlfriend’s association with black people, especially Magic Johnson. The woman, a gaudy arm bauble whose name, V. Stiviano, reminds this writer of nothing more than a bacterium such as E. coli or H. pylori, apparently secretly taped Sterling and his rant after he found an Instagram photo of her and another gal pal with Magic.
If you listen to the tape, it appears at certain points that Stiviano urges Sterling onward. He says he wants to stop, that he’s too upset to continue, and she goads him on.
Did she do this for blackmail purposes? Vengeance? Samaritanism? Fame? Background material?
It’s curious. Sterling is what he always has been — a narrow-minded, bigoted buffoon — just older. He’s 80 now and rich as sin, and having arm candy such as Stiviano around is something that Hollywood tycoons obviously think is cool.
But Sterling is married, and there is some kind of weird lawsuit against Stiviano by Sterling’s wife, Rochelle, for $1.8 million, a suit that claims the mistress “engages in conduct designed to target, befriend, seduce and then entice, cajole, borrow from, cheat and … receive gifts’’ from wealthy, naïve, old men. Including Donald.
It’s creepy and cheesy and devious, all of it. Pitiful, too. Some cynics have suggested this is a way for Johnson — the main afflicted character and most vocal respondent — to get ownership of the Clippers. He wants a ballclub, remember. Los Angeles is his base. The Clippers even share the Staples Center with his beloved Lakers.
Would you put anything past a league that has allowed a bigoted, litigious, philandering fool to own a team for 33 years?
Eleven years ago, in an earlier lawsuit involving another woman, Sterling said under oath that he paid the woman for oral sex.
Did he have feelings for that woman?
“I knew from the day she came in that she was a total freak and a piece of trash,” he stated.
There can be no sympathy for this man.
He should take his $1.9 billion net worth and slink off into the glitter of Viagra and Vine. There are swells in Beverly Hills who probably share his views about black people and certainly will attend his parties — as long as he pays.
Wealth can buy you a lot of things. But it can’t buy a good name. It can’t buy decency.
If commissioner Silver hadn’t laid the extreme discipline on Sterling that he did, he might have had an insurrection from NBA players past and present. Boycotts, protests, strikes, playoff disruptions — all were on the docket if Sterling went unpunished. Advertisers already had started fleeing the Clippers. NBA fans would be next.
In a pro sport in which three out of every four players are black, Sterling was a reminder of the times he must have found comfortable and gracious. That would be the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s — before civil-rights laws took real effect.
This kind of disgrace happens to old boys from time to time. As their real-life deeds get smoothed over and paid up, they finally get nailed by technology. Perhaps their brains have lost the decency filters they once had.
I do worry about a side part of this racial incident.
Being taped or photographed or recorded or sneak-shotted in what we think are private moments is an invasion we have to live with. Cameras are everywhere. So are listening devices and satellites. Google currently is video-processing every square inch of the outdoor world.
Be careful what you say. Be careful what you think.
It’s just so weird: After years of bad actions, Donald Sterling is being punished for something he said.
It’s complex, this mess. Yet at its core, it’s pretty simple.