Sportswire Jun 7 2024
CRANKY CLIPPER
If Donald Sterling's comments embarrassed NBA team owners, what will they think about an entire mini-series?


We don't watch a lot of new television series, but when we heard about Hulu's Clipped we decided to have a look. It's about the dysfunctional reign of billionaire Donald Sterling as owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, and it happens that ten years ago, back when we still had the time and inclination to write about public scandals as a subset of pulp, we touched on the subject. We used to watch a lot of NBA, but around then we drifted away from the sport and haven't watched it since. It wasn't a conscious decision, but looking back, the plantation mentality of league owners like Sterling may have had something to do with it

In short, Sterling is a billionaire real-estate mogul whose wealth insulated him from consequences that should have taken him down decades earlier. It was a woman that finally did him in. His misbehavior came out in the open when his (possibly non-sexual) mistress V. Stiviano shared an audio rant of Sterling haranguing her because she'd taken a photo with ex-basketball star Magic Johnson and posted it online. Sterling didn't want Stiviano—who's black and Mexican—seen in public with people of color, and didn't want her bringing black friends to Clippers games. It was a problematic and indefensible attitude, to say the least.

The audio clip revealed to the world what sports fans around L.A. (including us) had known for years—that the city's massive fanbase meant Sterling didn't need to spend money improving the team, he had little interest in winning, and held proprietary and retrograde views of black athletes. Sterling denied that his rant was racist, of course, and exhibited the moral outrage that is the default setting for people exposed for terrible views. In reality, he was like a walking, talking villain from a blaxploitation movie. If Pam Grier had burst through the door and karate chopped him to the floor nobody would have blinked.

Hulu has released two of the six episodes of Clipped. The show has a great tone, nudging up against farce though it's based on reality. Laurence Fishburne is excellent as Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, as is Cleopatra Coleman as Stiviano, but the showrunners' coup was in casting ex-Al Bundy portrayer Ed O'Neill as Sterling. He's pitch perfectas an elderly, insulated billionaire who constantly tells himself he's brilliant, yet refuses to understand that the reason things it was “okay” to say in the past are problematic now is because in the past the people he mistreated couldn't make their protests heard. They always hated it. Digital technology, the internet, and social media finally provided them a voice. Entire swaths of America are still refusing to adjust to this tipping of the scales toward a slightly more equal reality.

Clued in sports fans have always understood that Sterling's attitude is common among owners in the NBA (and NFL), but the revelations shocked casual fans and looked dangerous for the league's bottom line. Sterling's peers, driven by the instinct for self-protection and self-policing that keeps their clan out of congressional hearings, proactively drummed him out of their cosseted circle. Therefore the ending of Clipped is pre-written, but even so, we bet there are some amusing surprises in store. If you like sports, enjoy insider info on athletes, and can laugh at the absurd, then Clipped is good fun. It can't make NBA owners happy, but we're sure enjoying it.

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Sportswire Apr 29 2014
STERLING CHARACTER
The Donald Sterling fiasco is a surprise to nobody. What will the NBA do now?


In the U.S. today, in our old home of Los Angeles, the city’s newly ascendant basketball team the Clippers is in the playoffs while team owner Donald Sterling’s racist personal beliefs have blown up in his face and cast a pall over his on-the-court product. You’ve maybe heard the story. His mixed race mistress, who goes by the handle V. Stiviano, recorded him insisting that she, well, that she basically reject her own blackness. Specifically, Sterling wanted her to stop posing for Instagram photos with black acquaintances and even told her to stop bringing black friends to Clippers games. The recordings also revealed his bizarre attitude toward his own players, who he feels he “gives” everything they have, despite the lifetime of work they’ve put in to reach the NBA.

Sterling’s legal mouthpiece has implied—but not asserted—that the recordings could be fake or altered. That’s highly doubtful. The idea that Stiviano hired a voice actor, staged an argument, then released the recording to harm Sterling makes little sense. For one, there’s this little thing called voice analysis that can determine whether recordings match certain voices, and anyone who’s watched a Friday night detective show knows that. Second, to make such a recording, or to alter one in order to damage another person’s standing, could be construed as criminal fraud, which seems a hell of a risk to take just to thumb your sugar daddy’s eyes. No, it’s Sterling on the recordings, and his camp has not issued a flat denial because that in itself would harm them in future legal proceedings once their assertion was proven to be untrue.

Some observers have cited Sterling’s charitable work, but let’s be clear—such activities are mandated, not necessarily in the league bylaws, but by the NBA culture. They are the price of owning a team. Just as players must appear at hospitals hugging sick children when they would rather be relaxing at home with their slippered feet on the coffee table and ice packs on their sore knees, owners are expected to contribute to the communities that buy game tickets. Yes, some players love making sickbed appearances because of heartfelt views, and it’s possiblesome of the league's owners enjoy philanthropy, but never forget that the NBA runs ads all year extolling these activities. It is good work, but it is also marketing used to make fans feel better about ponying up tax revenue for multi-million dollar arenas and for laying down hard earned coin for overpriced seats. In short, Sterling would have to deal with a host of league-wide consequences if he didn’t do charitable work.

Likewise, there’s no contradiction in the fact that Sterling’s erstwhile mistress is mixed race. It has long been a privilege of old school male power that they can stick their dicks anyplace they like as long as they don’t embarrass themselves or shame their family by treating the person as anything other than a toy. That part isn’t even a matter of ethnicity. The same would be true if Sterling’s mistress were Norwegian: have all the fun you like, just don’t make a spectacle of yourself. At that Sterling has failed stupendously, and not for the first time. A notorious slumlord, in 2009 he lost the biggest housing discrimination suit in U.S. Justice Department history. At the trial witnesses divulged that Sterling believes African Americans smell bad, that Mexicans just sit around smoking and drinking all day, and that Koreans will live in terrible conditions and still meekly pay rent on time every month.
 
So today there will be a press conference at which NBA commissioner Adam Silver, empowered by public opinion and the other team owners (some of whom, by the way, are rumored to be barely better than Sterling), will presumably announce some form of punishment. It may or may not be severe enough to satisfy many observers, but the real issue that fans may want to consider is whether the NBA somehow enabled

the entire fiasco. Any player who had for years behaved as odiously as Sterling would have been disciplined long ago, yet the NBA brass turned a blind eye on an indicted slumlord and all around heel even as it touted its inclusive values and community minded culture. In fact, it looks suspiciously as if there was one set of rules for the workers and another for the 1%. Perhaps that’s what NBA fans should question, in the league and beyond.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 24
1915—Ship Capsizes on Lake Michigan
During an outing arranged by Western Electric Co. for its employees and their families, the passenger ship Eastland capsizes in Lake Michigan due to unequal weight distribution. 844 people die, including all the members of 22 different families.
1980—Peter Sellers Dies
British movie star Peter Sellers, whose roles in Dr. Strangelove, Being There and the Pink Panther films established him as the greatest comedic actor of his generation, dies of a heart attack at age fifty-four.
July 23
1984—Miss America Resigns
Vanessa Williams, who had been crowned Miss America and was the first African American woman to win the prize, resigns her title after Penthouse magazine purchases and slates for publication a series of lesbian-themed nudes Williams had posed for when she was younger. After resigning she files a $500 million lawsuit against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione but later drops the suit.
July 22
1992—Cocaine Baron Escapes Prison
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, imprisoned leader of the Medellin drug cartel, escapes from a posh Colombian jail known as La Catedral after he learns authorities intend to move him to a real prison. His taste of freedom doesn't last—he's killed in a shootout a year-and-a-half later.
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