, Muskogee, OK

May 1, 2014

COLUMN: Black, white issues are overshadowed by green tints

By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor

— Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, racism hasn’t gone away, as we learned this past week with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.  

Lo, what smart phones can tell us from behind closed doors. One minute you’re in conversation with your girlfriend over photos she’s posted of  Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and the fact you happen to associate with them, the next minute you’re banned from your cash cow of an NBA franchise.

That kind of talk is radically troubling, but for so many reasons besides a conversation born  from an affair and an implication that black is less than white.

That’s only the start of the problem.

Former NBA standout Kareem Abdul-Jabbar doesn’t excuse Sterling, but he was one of the first to openly question the legality of a private conversation made public, asking in a op-ed if it was only recently we voiced concerns about an overreach of that by the NSA? Would any of us be comfortable knowing that anything over the past week spoken in private conversations within the walls of our home was on YouTube?

Abdul-Jabbar also points out that Sterling’s past had enough question marks to raise these concerns before this scandal broke — a couple of housing discrimination suits which he reached settlements on where the suit alleges Sterling once said he did not like to rent to Hispanics because they “smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” and that “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.” In 2009, Sterling was sued by former longtime Clippers executive Elgin Baylor for employment discrimination on the basis of age and race.

Yet somehow, the NAACP was about to award him a lifetime achievement award when he had that chat with his gal-pal. Who slept at the wheel there and what message does that send?

Sterling has, obviously, many flaws.  Adultery, it appears, is among them, which makes it ironic that his wife might end up with his team.

What happened with his lifetime banishment from associating with the Clippers should have happened. But the NBA should have come down on him earlier, having plenty of supporting evidence before we began to wonder what the V in V. Stiviano stood for.

What we have come to learn from this is that racism matters — if the price is right.

It became so, according to Stiviano’s attorney, when somebody — “not his client, but somebody” — released the recording for money. No doubt, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver began to cringe when corporate sponsors threatened to abandon the league.

Where was this pressure earlier? Missing, just like the NAACP.

We may pat ourselves on the back in a feel-good moment, or laud the league for doing the right thing.

But it became black and white when mixed with green. Let’s be honest about that.

If we’re to really attack the issue of racism, we need to be more authentic than that.