Donald Sterling: It’s All About The Money

“Everything good that is not based on a morally good disposition, however, is nothing but pretense and glittering misery.” – Immanuel Kant

Time for one of my rare political posts.  I do not do these too often, because I usually want to make sure that I actually have something intelligent to say, and that I’m not going to make a fool of myself.  Would that others were capable of such self-restraint!

I really don’t follow sports, so until a few days ago I had never heard of Donald Sterling, the billionaire owner of the LA Clippers basketball team.  However, Sterling made the headlines in a big way when taped voice messages for his mistress, a part-Hispanic, part-black woman who apparently goes by several names, including V. Stiviano, were leaked to the press.  The 80 year old Sterling was caught on tape criticizing the 31 year old Stiviano for posting photos of herself with African American basketball legend Magic Johnson on Instagram.  According to CNN, Sterling told Stiviano “In your lousy f**ing Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with — walking with black people.”  He went on to add “I’ve known (Magic Johnson) well, and he should be admired. … I’m just saying that it’s too bad you can’t admire him privately. Admire him, bring him here, feed him, f**k him, but don’t put (Magic) on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”

Well, the shit immediately hit the fan, and Sterling has been up to his neck in a public relations nightmare for the last several days.  The mostly-black line-up of the Clippers showed up on the court with their warm-up gear inside out.  Over a dozen corporate sponsors made the decision to pull their support for the Clippers.  It all culminated in NBA commissioner Adam Silver banning Sterling for life, fining him $2.5 million, and urging the Board of Governors to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.

Following Silver’s announcement, former NBA player and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson publicly praised the decision.  He announced that “it delivered a statement about where we are as a county.”

Oh, yes, it delivered a statement, all right.  It declared, loud and clear, that the god of the American people is the almighty dollar.

Donald Sterling cartoon by Chip Bok

Let’s take a look at Donald Sterling’s long, sordid history.  He is a serial philanderer who was most recently carrying on a relationship with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter, apparently showering her with $2 million in gifts, all the while undoubtedly bringing embarrassment to his wife & children.  Sterling was unsuccessfully sued in 2009 by former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor for age & racial bias.  In that same year, Sterling paid $2.725 million to settle a housing bias suit brought against him by the Justice Department, which alleged that he systematically drove blacks, Hispanics and families with children out of apartment buildings he owned.

All of this is in Sterling’s past.  But none of it previously seemed to bother the NBA, the players on the Clippers, or the team’s corporate sponsors terribly much.  Hell, even the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP gave Sterling a lifetime achievement award after his contribution of $45,000 to their coffers.

However, once Sterling was caught on tape making racist remarks, causing a huge PR debacle, seething anger among the Clippers line-up, and sponsors to start fleeing from him like he’s come down with a case of the bubonic plague… then, and only then, does the NBA decide that Sterling is a reprehensible human being.  Yes, it took the looming threat of a gigantic loss of revenue to finally cause the NBA to cut Sterling loose.  Oh, yeah, and the NAACP is now keeping their distance.

This entire situation reminds me of what happened back in February in Arizona.  The state legislature had passed the controversial SB 1062, which would have allowed businesses in Arizona to deny service to gay & lesbian customers if that decision was “substantially motivated by a religious belief.”

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was a week away from deciding whether to sign or veto SB 1062 when all hell broke loose.  Companies such as American Airlines, AT&T and Marriot voiced concerns over the bill.  Apple, which was in the middle of building a plant in Mesa that was expected to create hundreds of new jobs, urged Brewer to veto SB 1062.  The state Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and a number of local businesses all came out in opposition to it.  Even three of the state legislators who had originally voted yes for SB 1062 were suddenly back-peddling furiously, urging Brewer to exercise her veto power.  The general dawning realization among many seemed to be “Wait a second, if this thing goes into effect, we could lose a shit load of money!”

In the end, Brewer did veto SB 1062.  But while it was the right decision, it was quite clearly done for the wrong reasons.  Instead of making her choice for reasons of social justice, Brewer’s motivation was financial.

It is a terrible tragedy when freedom and liberty are at the whims of economics, that the defense of civil rights is predicated on whether or not it is financially judicious.  Sadly, though, that has often been the case.  One of the most powerful tools of the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was the economic boycott.  Now more than ever, though, it seems that significant social progress is unlikely without a monetary incentive behind it.

As the old saying goes, money talks and bullshit walks.

A Super Bowl 2013 blog from a guy who doesn’t watch football

I’ve never seen the Super Bowl as a big deal, mostly because I’m not all that into football to begin with.  I think most of the blame for that lies in the fact that, no matter how many times people have explained it, I’ve never been able to figure out how the game is played.  Something about each team having a certain number of attempts to advance the ball across the field a certain number of yards, and at the end they need to score a touchdown, or at least a field goal.  Is that right?  I dunno.

I was going to just sit Super Bowl XLVII out this year.  But a cool local bar here in Queens, Gottscheer Hall, was having their regular Super Bowl party, complete with free buffet.  So Michele and I decided to go to that.

But first on Sunday afternoon, we sat down to watch the two hour Puppy Bowl IX on Animal Planet.  That’s the cute parody of the game which sees a bunch of puppies bouncing around a miniature football stadium, playing with each other and squeaky toys.  They even have a halftime show with cute, cuddly kittens.  It is, as you can imagine, absolutely adorable.  It’s also in a good cause, because all of the dogs and cats who appear on the show each year are rescued from animal shelters.  After the filming is done, they are all adopted out to people who want pets.  Apparently the show also helps raise awareness in animal adoptions, because there is a spike in rescues afterwards each year as viewers take in cats & dogs from their local shelters.

Puppy Bowl IX

By the time we arrived at Gottscheer Hall, the second quarter of the Super Bowl was already well underway.  Which meant, oh joy, we were in plenty of time to catch the halftime show with Beyonce.  I’ve never been a fan of her, to say the least, so this gave me ample opportunity to rag out on her, much to Michele’s amusement.  Look, if you can’t be bothered to sing live for the freaking President of the United States, who will you perform for?  Just as she was lip synching at Barack Obama’s inauguration, so too I expect she was doing much the same for her Super Bowl “performance.”

By the time the third quarter started up, the Ravens were well ahead, and it looked like the 49ers were going to get creamed, especially after Jacoby Jones scored a 108-yard touchdown.  Heck, I don’t even follow football, and even I was impressed by that.  Anyway, I wasn’t rooting for either team, but it’s just a much more interesting game to watch when the score is closer.  Baltimore was ahead 28 to 6 just a few minutes into the second half when, whoops, there was a power outage at the stadium.  It lasted over half an hour, and by the time all the lights were back up, it appeared that the Ravens had totally lost their momentum.  Next thing you know, the score was 34 to 29, with Baltimore barely clinging on to a slim lead in the fourth quarter.  It actually made for a riveting final few moments, because it looked like at any minute San Francisco was going to take the lead.  But the Ravens pulled through.  All in all, it was a pretty entertaining game, even for a football-illiterate viewer such as myself.

Oh, yes, then there were the commercials.  What can I say about them?  I know: they sucked!  Yipes, what an awful collection of garbage.  Companies actually paid millions of dollars to air this crap.  And did I actually see a commercial being broadcast for the Church of Scientology?  What’s next, the Vatican buying air time during the MLB playoffs?  What a world.

Oh, well, come hell or high water, hopefully next year we’ll have Puppy Bowl once again.