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Sterling’s punishment a teaching tool

Friday, May 2, 2014
Dirt Under the Nails
Donald Sterling, right, and the woman who brought him down, Vanessa Stiviano.

Owner of NBA team LA Clippers, Donald T Sterling has received the maximum penalty the NBA can give for his racist comments revealed in an audio recording revealed this past weekend. It is the strongest action taken by the NBA against any owner of any NBA team in the sport’s history. 


Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA and fined the maximum penalty allowed of $2.5 million for his racist comments. An investigation launched by the NBA led by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, included an interview with Sterling which concluded that the voice on the audio recording was, in fact, Sterling’s and the opinions on the recording are, in fact, his own.


Naturally the world has responded to the news with their own opinions on the highly-publicised recording that was made during a private conversation with his former girlfriend but which, none-the-less, has led him to serious repercussions that have ended his involvement in the NBA beyond just being the owner of a team. 


In Silver’s press release announcing Sterling’s penalties he described Sterling’s comments to be “deeply offensive and harmful” and as going against the “sentiments of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of (the NBA’s) diverse, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic league.”


Many members of the basketball community who move and operate in those circles were not so much shocked by this breaking news as they were disappointed and disgusted. Charles Barkley plainly mentioned previous incidences of his known bigotry. President Obama, a known fan of this sport and sport in general, has also made public his support of Sterling’s sentence by the NBA.


Shaquille O’Neal said that there is a difference between “controversial” and “repugnant,” a sentiment clearly shared by the LA Clippers team’s sponsors as the corporate backers moved quickly to suspend or severe their contracts with the team. 


It is a strong statement by the league and corporate America, that this sort of conduct is intolerable.


The issue of racism in sport is nothing new. From Fifa to the NFL, people have had to exercise discretion with their opinions as regards not just race but also sexual preferences, the latter being a challenge particularly amongst the male gender.


The power of sport is vast. It is filled with lessons that can develop each of us. This incident has brought to the forefront some very real underlying issues that are often just more easily dealt with by sweeping under a rug. 


The world has evolved to entitle people to their own opinions and values. Time and again sport has proven to be the arena that forces us as humans to acknowledge our less pleasant qualities as humans. 


Retired professional basketball player Kenny Smith has commented on the point that this experience can be used as a “teaching tool” to the new generations of players and minorities. 


He made particular reference to the group he described as the “new generation of new educated, new wealth African-Americans” who may be placed in similar circumstances where they need to handle situations that have hit them on a personal level in a professional manner.


Although this could have been handled in different ways, to do nothing was not an option. Kenny Smith stated that this should be used as a learning tool. 


Banishing Sterling provided a sense of justice to the players and the public. The swiftness of it helped to curb and in some cases reverse the corporate fall-out. It certainly sent a strong message on a social level that once brought to light, this sort of prejudice will not be tolerated or excused.


His ownership of the team has also been brought to question by members of the public and by the players both past and present. Perhaps this is where, as Kenny Smith said in his interview, the choices and actions of the players can make an example of this situation, exercising their right to renew their contract next season. 


As a society, there are decisions that can be made on the basis of ethics and moral principles to show what will and will not be tolerated as a nation.


The silence of the billionaire to these events has been noted and I am interested to see what the future brings to this case.



Asha De Freitas-Moseley is a certified athletic trainer with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association of the USA. She has over 11 years of experience rehabilitating athletes and members of the active population from injury to full play. She can be reached at Pulse Performance Ltd, located at: 17 Henry Pierre Street, St James. Tel: 221-2437.


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