It’s seldom that the top news headline is shared by both Sportscenter and CNN. It’s safe to say that their “news worthy” priorities are very different. Yet recently if you flip to either channel you would likely be treated to the same story.
The scandal and subsequent removal of Donald Sterling from the NBA, owner (and likely soon to be former owner) of the Los Angeles Clippers, has taken the nation by storm. In part because his comments were just so appalling, but perhaps more because of the punishment he has received.
Such a severe and timely decision regarding the racism of Sterling is shocking, perhaps because for too long men of his stature have been able to slither by such allegations. No longer it seems. Following the NBA’s decision, a new precedent has been set on how such racism and bigotry will be dealt with, no matter whom you are or how much you are worth. Such a tremendous decision will not only be a defining moment in the history of the NBA, but will likely eclipse sports entirely as a hallmark victory against racism.
To be clear, Donald Sterling got exactly what he deserved. The man had a long history of racism, dating back to several racial discrimination lawsuits. The tape that resulted in his ban recorded him even saying that he did not wish his then girlfriend to bring African Americans to his basketball games. Being such a strong proponent of discrimination, there is simply no place for him in the NBA.
What’s especially significant about how the NBA has dealt with Sterling is the precedent it hopefully sets regarding such racist beliefs. The reaction from the public seems to be clear, that racism from those in leadership roles will no longer be tolerated. With the removal of Sterling from the NBA, it’s possible that such a precedent carries over to other facets of the country.
That’s not to say that there aren’t still some concerns regarding how Sterling has been dealt with. For too long was it known that the man had a history of discrimination and for too long was it tolerated. It shouldn’t take sponsors pulling their support or players threatening to boycott the league for action to be taken.
Still, we at least have more reason to believe that such attitudes will be less likely to be overlooked or ignored. America is still far from being removed from racism and it will be moments like these that truly test us and allow us to progress. Dominique Wilkins, an NBA Hall of Famer, expressed such a view better than I ever could.
“It is incumbent upon us as executive leaders and community leaders to continue to be outspoken to ensure the lessons of this moment do not become part of that same noisy news cycle. The conversation is way bigger than any one man,” Wilkins wrote in a guest column submitted to CNN.
Going forward, there will be multiple tough conversations other than racial issues regarding Sterling. Questions relating to freedom of speech and right to privacy will likely soon dominate headlines as Sterling inevitably brings the NBA to court for a lengthy trial. This controversy over Sterling is only the very beginning and it will be a story we likely hear much about over the course of the next few years.
For now though, we can at least celebrate this victory over racism. Sterling’s punishment and the reaction that has resulted make for a strong statement that such viewpoints are increasingly not being tolerated. Years from now, we could very well be remembering this as a monumental event in the fight against racism and discrimination.
Nick Ulferts is a junior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.