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Sterling isn’t the only bigoted basketball owner

MikeIt’s my turn to weigh in on the Donald Sterling controversy. Unless you make like an ostrich and your head has been in the sand the last couple of weeks, you probably know that Sterling, owner of NBA basketball’s Los Angeles Clippers made some very disparaging remarks about black people to his girlfriend.

One of his comments was that she couldn’t bring black people to Clipper games, not even Magic Johnson. He also said for her to take down a picture of her posing with Magic that she posted on Instagram. He went on to infer that African Americans were inferior in a lot of ways, despite owning a basketball team that was predominately black.

He made these comments in the comfort of his own home. His girlfriend, spurred by monetary reasons, decided to tape them and somehow leak them to TMZ. Sterling has now been condemned  by nearly everyone who is anyone, and the NBA has fined him millions and banned him from his own games.

I’m not surprised at Sterling’s  comments. The 80-year-old with more money than he knows what to do with is “old school.” I’m willing to wager a couple hundred bucks that he is not the only NBA owner who harbors those type of feelings.

I use to own a pro basketball team. Albeit, it was minor league, but at the time we had teams in Nashville, Huntsville, Wichita, Louisville and Greensboro. My team was in Saginaw. The league was run by a former NBA owner. Talk about prejudice. This guy was probably ten times worse than Sterling.

I being the youngest owner (at one point in my life I had a few bucks) I would sit at league meetings in Atlanta, for hours listening to the Southern “good ole boys,” rant and rave about their franchises and prejudices against African American fans and players.

I don’t think they liked me much either. I had an African American coach, an African American general manager, and all my players but one were black. I personally never gave it much thought, but now that I reflect back, for the most part, those good ole boy owners all had a dose of racism running through their veins.

That was twenty years ago, and I would suspect younger generations are much more color blind than their fathers and grandfathers. I would suspect octogenarians like Sterling still retain prejudices from their youth. None of us should be shocked by it-that is if you don’t own a basketball team.

It was and is disturbing to me that basketball owners, NBA or minor leagues harbor these prejudices. They are profiting – the average NBA franchise will sell for a half billion dollars, from young black men who have incredible athletic skills.  Sterling, who made millions renting apartments, has made much more off the likes of Chris Paul. He should be embracing black people and their culture and not muttering disparaging remarks.

It is in a way dastardly that we live in an age where you can’t say what you want in your own home. Sterling never thought in his wildest dreams that his comments would be spread over every newspaper, television station and internet website. I know I would not want some of the stupid things I say in my living room, spread everywhere.

But it is what it is. Sterling is a bigot. He shouldn’t own a basketball team. On the other hand, no one should be surprised that an 80-year-old has different values and views than younger generations. It isn’t right. I certainly don’t condone it, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

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