One of the best things that I’ve read about the drama surrounding cranky racist white guy of the week Donald Sterling was a post by Hall of Fame former NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He writes, “Moral outrage is exhausting. And dangerous. The whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging. Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking.” I’m so tired of all this pageantry, which has little to do with authentic moral outrage and everything to do with the desperate scandal-chasing of today’s bloggers, pundits, and “cultural analysts” who get hits for their pieces by making bold demands for basketball players and fans to obey.
The only way to boycott all the racist rich white people in the world would be to not buy anything ever. Just because most racist rich white people are smart enough to keep their racist thoughts to themselves doesn’t mean that they’re any better than Donald Sterling. Why does Donald Sterling get to throw a wet blanket over a remarkable season for a team that has sucked forever? Why are Blake Griffin and Chris Paul “cowards” unless they completely abandon their personal goals as basketball players in obedience to the outrage police’s demands that they prove their opposition to racism by forfeiting the rest of their playoff series to the Golden State Warriors? Doesn’t it ironically give Sterling all the power to demand that the Clippers refuse to play or telling Clippers fans that unless they’re racist, they have to stay home?
If the best possible outcome is for Sterling to be forced to sell the team, then he’s going to make a $500+ dollar profit off of that since he bought the team for $12.5 million in the early 1980′s and it’s now valued at more than $575 million. So how exactly is that punishment for him? The problem is that rich white people just don’t get punished for what they do. There’s actually a really good book that just came out about that called The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. It talks about the way that few if any of the super-rich who caused the financial meltdown of 2008 through completely illegal, fraudulent activities were ever prosecuted for their crimes. But by God, if a black kid gets caught smoking a joint, they’re off to prison.
In any case, I don’t think that the Clippers team should have to get punished themselves in order to prove their zeal against racism. I share Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s conclusion about the whole matter:
I hope Sterling loses his franchise. I hope whoever made this illegal tape is sent to prison. I hope the Clippers continue to be unconditionally supported by their fans. I hope the Clippers realize that the ramblings of an 80-year-old man jealous of his young girlfriend don’t define who they are as individual players or as a team. They aren’t playing for Sterling—they’re playing for themselves, for the fans, for showing the world that neither basketball, nor our American ideals, are defined by a few pathetic men or women.
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