What the Sterling mess is really all about, and how we can learn from it
My apologies for not having written in awhile…vacations, a busy spring sports season and a case of writer’s block have contributed to the absence. But along comes Donald Sterling, a man whose surname means one thing but he as a man is anything but. And man do I have the writing bug again….
For those who have been, well, asleep for the past week Donald Sterling is the majority owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. It is believed Sterling was recorded admonishing his girlfriend for bringing minorities to Clippers games.
Now this is not Sterling’s first go-around with bigoted remarks. He has a history of uttering racial slurs, refusing to rent to minorities and was taped urging a superintendent on his property to evict a minority because she complained about something not working in her unit. Because of these transgressions, and Sterling’s recent remarks he has been banned for life from the NBA, fined and will be strongly urged to sell his team by the commissioner and his fellow owners.
I’ve heard Sterling is this way because of the era he grew up in. I’ve heard others cite the fact he’s very rich. But to me it’s not about any of these things. Sterling said these things because of power. Not the kind that runs your lights, but the kind that people use to run things, namely other people.
I know this because of my past job experience…I worked at a very exclusive athletic club in Portland for 10 years and let’s just say most of their clientele is the one percent of Portland. Yes, these people have a lot of money and as a result they have a lot of power and play by a different set of rules than you and I. To their credit, they got to where they are in most cases because they are more aggressive than you and I. They work harder than you and I and above all don’t really care about you and I. And as a result, they aren’t told “no” as often as you and I. Part of my job was telling these people no from time to time and boy did I hear about it.
People are afraid to tell these people no because of what they might say. Or, even worse, what they might do. So they think they can do what they want, when they want. I’m sure very few people pulled Sterling aside and told him you can’t say and do these things you’re doing. Simply put, they love to be able to do things that a common person can’t do and they know they won’t be told they can’t do it.
There’s going to be a lot of debate in the coming weeks about whose voice that is on the recording…and the legality of the recording. But there’s no doubt what needs to be done – people need to dig their heels in and stand up for whatever Sterling decides to do. He may not be seen, but he will be heard from again.
Money can buy a lot of things, and powerful people can do a lot of things that people like me can’t even dream of doing such as owning a professional basketball team. But money can’t buy human decency, or class. Sterling’s world is collapsing all around him and where I sit from the cheap seats I can’t think of a better guy this could happen to.