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A long-time bigot finally gets his comeuppance

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It was a relatively minor incident, even by my bleeding heart standards – a conversation that was recorded and broadcast to the world. There must be hundreds of similar conversations in America every day and thousands of such sentiments, felt but not expressed.

But America once again managed to pleasantly surprise me.

On April 25, TMZ Sports released a September 2013 recording of a conversation between Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA basketball team, the Los Angeles Clippers and his girlfriend, Vivian Stiviano. In the recording, Sterling, evidently irritated over a photo Stiviano had posted on instagram in which she is seen posing with Hall-of-Famer, Magic Johnson, is heard telling her, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”

There is more. Here is some good old-fashioned ‘plantation mentality’…… “I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Aren’t there 30 owners that created the league?”

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80 year old Donald Sterling at an NBA game, with fit-to-be-granddaughter girlfriend, Vivian Stiviano who fed him to the sharks for a few bucks. Sterling’s doormat wife sued her for it, I understand. (Photo courtesy: The Associated Press) 

As the recordings went viral, sponsors threatened to leave the NBA in droves, yesterday, jeopardizing the future of its very existence. Meanwhile, in solidarity with the Clippers, players from other teams began shedding their shooting t-shirts on the court and wearing them inside out to hide the team logo.

Justice came swiftly. NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, delivered a clear verdict – a lifetime ban on Sterling, prohibiting him from having anything to do with future games that the Clippers played and even delivering him persona non-grata at all NBA venues and events, for life.

Silver further called upon all the owners of the other 29 NBA teams to not only boycott Donald Sterling but also to force him to sell the team, which is now worth around $550 million. Sterling had bought it for $12 million. It looks as if he will get the last laugh in case of a sale.

If 75% of the franchise owners agree, Sterling is history as far as the NBA is concerned. In their turn, almost unanimously, owners have supported the commissioner in the handing down of what is considered the harshest penalty ever, in the history of US league sports.

While there must have been an element of panic at the thought of one of the world’s richest sports leagues suddenly suffering a meltdown and going bankrupt with no sponsors, the NBA’s actions were lightning swift. There was no hemming and hawing and no weeklong deliberations.

For the moment, I am willing to stretch my trust and believe that the NBA acted primarily out of the willingness to do the right thing and that facing the financial shithouse had nothing to do with it. The White House weighed in too, strongly condemning Sterling’s comments.

Adam Silver is white and so are the other team owners. Their condemnation of racism and show of enlightenment, even if it turns to be only for public consumption, has been heartening to watch. The righteous indignation may not have been unanimous. I am sure there are lots of white folk who don’t consider Sterling’s comments a big deal.

It is my guess that Donald Sterling has known all through his early life, what discrimination really feels like. Born to Jewish immigrants, he was Donald Tokowitz as a boy and the brickbats, the bullying and sneers must have been hurtful enough for him to change his last name to a proper Christian sounding one, Sterling when he became an adult.

Anyway, he obviously overcame any such adversity. In adulthood, he started his career as an ambulance chasing personal injury lawyer and gradually went on to become a big-time real estate investor. Sterling is now worth close to $2 billion and lives in a humongous Beverly Hills mansion.

Donald Sterling is not the only Jew in America to have changed to an all-American non-Jewish name. In a nation that welcomed hordes of Nazis with open arms after the dust of the Second World War settled, it is no surprise that there are many Americans who prefer to keep their Jewish roots hidden.

Here too, I have numerous Canadian friends, non-Jewish white Anglo-Saxon or Quebecois, who, to the last man, show a certain frightening undercurrent of animosity toward Jews.

Interesting. This is analogous to the oft-repeated term, ‘food chain’. The non-Jew whites look down upon Jewish whites, who in turn look down upon the blacks. We Asians are surely there somewhere, maybe on a mezzanine floor with our Silicon Valley pedigrees, situated above and to the right of the blacks, but lower and to the left of the Jews. If you want a Power Point presentation with one of those block diagram flow-charts, let me know.

We are all a part of the PPT presentation, occupying one block or the other, looking down upon the folk below. Yes, even us brownies (take a look at the caste consciousness in India and you’ll know what I mean). The color of the skin has little to do with our collective bigotry. We, every last one of us, need someone to look down upon, to make us feel like we are worth something.

I am of course, not trying to explain Sterling’s conduct. Far from it. I am just having fun, thinking out loud, trying to figure out what motivates a man like Sterling to say such abominably racist things. Interestingly, he is also a very bad judge of people, being betrayed to the sharks, the tabloid TMZ, by a woman he thought was close to him. She almost certainly did what she did, in exchange for money, maybe no more than just a few hundred bucks.

Be that as it may, America is a nation where, in the confines of your home and the privacy of a phone-call with your girlfriend, you are supposed to have the freedom to vent your feelings. We are all bigoted in our own little ways. Show me one guy who claims to be 100% enlightened and I’ll peel him open like an onion for you. Who are we to crucify a guy, even one like Donald Sterling, in such a severe manner?

Donald Sterling is just a billionaire buffoon. He is also the rarest of rarities – a dumb Jew.