NBA banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling because racism is bad for business

Photo: Donald Sterling sitting courtside at a Clipper's Game with his mistress and his wife. Photo Source: Google Images,

Donald Sterling sitting courtside with his girlfriend and his wife. Image source:

NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the lifetime ban of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling on April 29. He also emphatically stated that he would do everything in his power to see that the other owners force the sale of the Clippers. This came after TMZ released a recorded conversation of Sterling arguing with his girlfriend V. Stiviano over the appropriateness of bringing black people to watch black people play basketball. He must have forgotten that every time he sits with his girlfriend at a game he is watching basketball with a black person. Regardless, it looks as if Donald Sterling’s relationship with the NBA is concluding.

Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman spoke out against the NFL, hypothesizing that pro football wouldn’t banish a higher-up if a similar situation were to occur. Sherman told Time Magazine:

We have an NFL team called the Redskins. I don’t think the NFL really is as concerned as they show. The NFL is more of a bottom line league. If it doesn’t [affect] their bottom line, they’re not as concerned.

Earlier in April, the brand-new (literally days in) CEO of Mozilla Brendan Eich resigned amid controversy regarding his $1,000 donation to the campaign for Proposition 8, California’s gay marriage ban. Multiple employees resigned in protest, and the LGBT community called for a boycott of FireFox’s parent company. Prior to his ousting, Eich attempted to calm the storm by posting a statement on his blog touting “inclusiveness at Mozilla.” It clearly failed.

So here’s what we know:

  • The NBA will not tolerate racist private conversations
  • The NFL is content with an overtly racist team name
  • Mozilla will not tolerate leaders funding LGBT-exclusive marriage campaigns
  • Adam Silver is the most popular person in America while Mozilla acted irresponsibly (see Denny Burk’s post for all the reasons why)

And here’s what’s left: some issues to be tackled, analyzed, explored:

  • The slippery slope of personal time behavior leading to termination
  • Some forms of racism against some groups are more acceptable — and more lucrative — than others
  • Whether public, political-type positions [and by that I mean positions of bigotry] are inherently linked to job performance

These topics can be debated from so many perspectives — legal, economic, sociological, psychological, etc. Turn on ESPN radio right now — and you will hear the answers to these questions diced a million different ways.

What no one is talking about is the actual root of the issue. The NBA didn’t care about Sterling’s overt racism until it was national news. For years Sterling fielded racial housing discrimination and wrongful termination suits. Not that we can completely blame the NBA, not when the NACCP has not once but twice honored Sterling with a lifetime achievement award. Seriously:

Photo: NAACP Donald sterling award ad. Photo source: Google Images, The New York TimesImage source: New York Times

There’s also this gem:

Photo: Donald Sterling Black History Month Ad Photo Source: Google Images,, LA Times

Image source: L.A. Times

The NBA has completely failed to promote people of color past the bottom level for decades. Mozilla doesn’t care about marriage equality. They care about money. This isn’t news — personal time and political beliefs lead to terminations when it reflects poorly on the brand. Just ask Carla Hale or John Freshwater or Rhoda Lee or Ryan J. Bell. The reason why this is news is because what’s happened to folks without resources for years is actually happening to folks with resources: When the folks on top, like CEOs and team owners, fight so hard for their financiers to make more money, it will eventually overpower them.

People have always been fired for who they are, what they believe and what they look like. The folks on top are just learning what the rest of us — black people, gay people, transgender people, poor people — have always known: Individuals are never more important or more valuable than the brand, the moneymaker, even when you helped to build it.

No one is immune when image is everything. No one wants to be associated with such a cut-‘n-dry instance overt racism. It’s bad for business. And I can guarantee, if Sterling’s racist comments boosted the bottom line, he wouldn’t have been banned from basketball.

This post is part of an on-going series by Sports Butch, a diehard fan of the Indianapolis sports, especially the Colts and Pacers. But not the Speedway. Anything but that.

One thought on “NBA banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling because racism is bad for business

  1. Pingback: Mailbag: Responses to my Michael Sam editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer | Stuff Queer People Need To Know

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