Why didn't this happen 25 years ago? The Los Angeles Clippers had been the laughing stock of the National Basketball Association for almost a quarter of a century, but yet the team's owner, Donald Sterling, was allowed to run the franchise. He nearly ran it into the ground, some say on purpose. He always seemed to be involved in some sort of lawsuit or mess, either with firing coaches or general managers, or just refusing to put money into the team. Now, he has allegedly made racially sensitive remarks, and to his half-black, half-Mexican girlfriend of all people.
TMZ obtained a recording of who we believe to be Sterling, upset with girlfriend V. Stiviano because she had her picture taken with Magic Johnson, and posted it on Instagram. In the recording, Stiviano reminds Sterling that she's half black, and asks if she's supposed to hate black people. Sterling responds, “...I want you to love them—privately. In your whole life, you can be with them. Every single day of your life, but why publicize it on Instagram and why bring it to my games?”
There are still a lot of questions to be answered here. The recording is very clear. She must have had the recorder sitting on a table very close to the two of them. There are few background noises—one where she apparently goes to get him some juice while they are talking. Then there are the questions of why she made the recording, and why she would leak it to the media? Her attorney is denying that Stiviano released the tape, but if she didn't, who did?
By the way, Sterling just turned 80 on Saturday. Stiviano is 31, and according to ABC News, “has an active presence on social media that portrays the glamorous life of a jet-setting model.” Sterling is also still married to his wife Rochelle of 50 years, and Mrs. Sterling and Stiviano are involved in some sort of legal battle, according to Deadspin and the Los Angeles Times, most certainly something to do with Stiviano's relationship with the Clippers owner. The plot thickens.
As the recording continues, one quote that hasn't seemed to be widely publicized (probably because of the language), outlines how important the public Instagram issue is with Sterling. Stiviano tells Sterling that she had her picture taken with Johnson because she admired him because he's made a lot of changes for the world and for the minorities. Sterling responded, “I think it's nice that you admire him. I know him well, and he should be admired. And I'm just saying it's too bad you can't admire him privately... (raising his voice) Bring him here. Feed him. Fuck him. I don't care. You can do anything, but don't put him on Instagram so the world has to see it, so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games, OK?” So, it's ok, if she sleeps with another man, just don't put a picture of a black guy on Instagram. That makes sense.
Even Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp has been brought into this. Stiviano told Sterling she abided by his request to remove pictures of black people from Instagram, but listed two exceptions, Johnson, and Kemp. “I thought Matt Kemp is mixed, and he is okay, just like me. He's lighter and whiter than me”, Stiviano said.
In the recording, Stiviano never yells, and Sterling raises his voice only a couple of times, yet it seems like Stiviano is just letting him go. He even goes into a ramble about Jews (Sterling, born Donald Tokowitz, is Jewish) and that in Israel there are white Jews and black Jews, and the black Jews are treated like dogs. Near the end of the recording, Stiviano compares racism to the Holocaust, and asks Sterling if he can't try to change his views or the “culture” that Sterling claims exists. He responds by calling her a mental case, and says there's no racism here. “There's no racism here”, Sterling says. “If you don't want to be...walking...into a basketball game with a certain person. Is that racism?” The recording ends.
There are several other quotes that could have been illustrated here, but many of them have been all over the news. The NBA has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow morning (Tuesday), but other than say the remarks are unfortunate, or offer some sort of verbal condemnation, it seems like there's very little else that can be done. Some have suggested an owner's suspension, which is unprecedented. Ordering him to sell the team would set off a legal firestorm (Sterling is a lawyer, just FYI).
Now perhaps the recording isn't real. Perhaps that's not him. Doubtful, but we'll see. And think about it, all of this after his team finally gets good. Too bad Stiviano wasn't around 25 years ago. Actually she was, but she was in first grade.
You can find the audio, a 15-minute recording broken into three parts, at deadspin.com
Photo by Associated Press