Sunday, April 27, 2014

Donald Sterling and Racism

So many stories to comment on, so little time.  Normally, this would be time for a random thoughts blogging post, but one story stuck out at me - the recent comments by Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Apparently, Mr. Sterling has no qualms about employing African Americans, but does not want African Americans to be seen with his mistress at Clippers games.

This sort of view is hardly surprising for Mr. Sterling who, for a number of years, was notoriously cheap with his players and their training equipment, and who was sued by the United States Department of Justice for housing discrimination.  Oh, and this wasn't the DOJ under Obama, it was the DOJ under George W. Bush.  And it was hardly his only discrimination lawsuit.   In each lawsuit, it was alleged that Sterling systematically discriminated against African Americans as tenants.

Ultimately, this aspect of discrimination caught my eye and lead me to comment. For a good portion of my law school career, my after law school plan was to be employed by the Fair Housing Council of San Diego - a nonprofit which fought housing discrimination in the San Diego area.  And for a while, until financial realities caught up with me, I did work for the Fair Housing Council as an enforcement specialist and a staff attorney.

That experience lead me to say this - of all the areas where discrimination may occur, housing discrimination is often the worst because we are often shaped by where we live.  This is especially true of children, who go to schools as determined by their neighborhood. But it is also true of adults, who are affected by the stress of long commutes, by fear of neighborhood crime, and by lack of appreciation of their homes. Housing discrimination affects people over the long term.

Yet Donald Sterling, an alleged serial discriminator in housing, is allowed to continue to own an NBA franchise. These actions are far worse than anything Mr. Sterling has said, but given the context, it's not at all surprising that Mr. Sterling would finally espouse the beliefs he lived by for over twenty years.

So, what is the NBA to do? Well, they finally have to do something.  And I would guess that the NBA "investigation" is not about whether Donald Sterling is a racist, but what the NBA can do.  If I were Adam Silver (the NBA commissioner), I would expel the Clippers from the National Basketball Association, render all of the player contracts null and void, and remove all the privileges of being in the NBA to the Clippers.  Heck, David Stern should have done that YEARS AGO.

Will it happen? I don't know, but something significant must happen.