Racism in Pro Sports

Two weeks ago, the (now former) Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, was banned from the NBA and fined 2.5 million dollars for making racist remarks, while being secretly recorded by his personal assistant/mistress, V. Stiviano. Sterling specifically disapproved Stiviano’s Instagram post of her and Magic Johnson.

He stated, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”

The new NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, immediately investigated the authenticity of the inimical recordings and summoned the parties involved. And according to Silver, when Sterling admitted he said those distasteful sentences, there was no other choice to make. The damage had been almost devastating when the initial report emerged and during the investigation. Players, coaches, front office executives from around the league were stating their opinions of disapproval and swift recourse via their particular social media outlet, and the Clippers themselves had threatened to not play a game during first round Golden State series (but had elected, instead, to throw their jerseys and warmups at the center of the court prior to tip off, and warm-up in just plain, red shirts).

And when Silver publicly made his decision, banning the Clippers’ owner for life, a shower of acclaim and appreciation showered down on the NBA, thus extinguishing the hateful, scorching fire created by Sterling. In his first few months at the head of the helm, Adam Silver has done a tremendous job in determining the proper action in accordance to the limit of his power and showing that there will be absolutely no tolerance for racism in the NBA. Plus, Sterling had it coming. In 2005, was sued by a group of tenants said Sterling wanted no blacks, no Hispanics, no children and no recipients of subsidized housing in his buildings (since he made a fortune off the real state market in the greater LA area). Even the great NBA legend and former Clippers General Manager, Elgin Baylor, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the team, stating that Sterling allegedly wanted a white coach for the team at the time.

Clearly, his days were numbered long ago and I couldn’t believe it took the league this long to actually do something about it. Ironically, Sterling was supposed to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NCAAP prior to the remarks made.

Yet, outside of the NBA, the subject of racism still plagues the rest of the sports landscape.

In the NFL, Washington D.C., along with 22 Native American tribes living in the state, is currently fighting to force the league to change the Washington Redskins to something less offensive. I mean, come on, this is something that should’ve been corrected long ago and I don’t understand why Roger Goodell hasn’t made this a priority. Dan Synder, Washington’s owner, doesn’t want to deviate from “tradition”. Tradition? You call being a platform of bigotry and racism a tradition? Goodell even backs Synder in a sense, reiterating how this has been the team name for 80 years and established with the original idea to “honor” Native Americans. Sometimes the “but it has always been that way” kind of talk eventually becomes…outdated and obsolete.

In Soccer, racism has been running rampant for decades, yet rarely gets its exposure in the limelight. The most recent story, On April 27th, Spanish soccer team Villarreal CF was playing in their stadium against FC Barcelona when one of their supporters threw a banana at Dani Alves, Barcelona’s defender. Alves surprisingly responded by picking up the banana, taking a few bites, and proceeding to take a corner kick. After the game, Alves thanked whoever threw the banana and explained that, “the potassium gave me the energy for two crosses which led to a goal.” Talk about turning something negative into a positive. Unfortunately, not all cases ended up like Alves’. Banana throwing and monkey calling is an epidemic all over the globe in countries where soccer is the most popular sport, and that’s a lot of countries.

So, what can we learn from the Donald Sterling incident?

Adam Silver has set an amazing precedence, which is Zero Tolerance in regards to racism and bigotry. As a nation, we have come a long way since the civil rights days. We are now legalizing same-sex marriages in more states as each year passes. Eventually, once my generation becomes the elderly, I’m sure the world will be a much more accepting place, but the fight isn’t over yet. But at least, Adam Silver made the right step forward. Perhaps the Presidents and Commissioners of other major professional sports should follow.



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