Imagine the scene confetti falling like red, white and blue raindrops from the Staples Center rafters. The shards of paper bearing the Clippers colors, which ironically are also those of the American flag, representing blood, purity of free markets and justice done. As the stage is rolled out, none other than the Sterling family demanding to be present to accept the award they waited 30 years to receive. Why shouldn't they be there? This team is the result of Donald Sterling's essence.
As industries decayed in Los Angeles, leaving entire areas to become ghetto projects, Sterling prospered. As a policy of containment created Skid Row, a sub-city of homeless black males, its existence allowing for the development plans of Staples Center to occur, Sterling prospered. So its only fitting if the Clippers win the championship that Sterling prosper. The culmination and crowning would be the reflection not just of a man, but the dynamics of a city's evolution. The Sterlings and their fortune were at the heart of the City of Angels' change. Don't expect the Sterlings to walk away from their creation now. If the Clippers win they win as well. Every jersey sold, game watched or seat filled ensures their family's financial legacy. As stated in a release by the Sterling Family:
Mrs. Sterling still has property rights. She has worked tirelessly over the years to build up a franchise that was once a cellar dweller into a sports powerhouse. She has the same right as anyone else in America to enjoy and control the fruits of those labors...
Looking at the broader picture, for the last 30 years the NBA as a whole has served as a decadent veil covering an African-American male existence that has decayed from social denial. Sports leagues with their rags-to-riches stories, became window dressing for a national economic forecast for African Americans that has bare cupboards. A culpable deniability grew alongside the NBA's expansion into our cultural psyche about how a few hundred newly minted black male millionaires made it easy for a nation to justify lack of real discussion on endemic social issues facing millions that look like them. Yet, their experience with blackness is not a solution for a mass group, rather an escape route for the few. Just as Charles Barkley stated on TNT, "Myself, Shaq and Kenny, we're black, but we're not really black. We're all successful and really, really wealthy..." essentially pointing to how the fame, and wealth allows them to escape the trap that black maleness creates in our new America. The broadcasting of wealthy black twenty-something-year-old millionaires allowed America to hide from how history and present realities point to an abysmal set of prospects for young black men as a whole. Black athletes shown on TV screens, and smartphone apps to the point of nausea allowed for American culture to normalize them, and undervalue the struggle of a generation. The ability to point to singular successes allowed the nation to escape judgment, and shift failure to each black man not jumping high enough, running fast enough or growing tall enough. As such, if the Clippers win despite scandal, yes this archetype is reinforced, and wins as well.
The NBA, more than any other sports league, represented equality's great hope for advancement. Since the drafting of the black boy from Michigan, Magic Johnson, and the white kid from Indiana, Larry Bird, the NBA exuded the dream of Dr. King in action. Their friendship represented the ideal of what America could become. It is through that lens that the NBA magnified its great image across the globe, a visual of post-racial progress. In this light owners like Sterling prospered greatly. While a share of the profits fell to the players, the great bulk went to the owners' accounts. Donald T. Sterling became a billionaire in the process -- in 1981 he bought the Clippers for 12.5 million dollars, and may now be able to sell the team for 100 times that amount, reaping his share of the billion-dollar ball game. Yet all this progress was being projected despite the fact, during the same time frame, African-American male prison rates skyrocketed and places like skid row, which houses the highest ratio of homeless in the nation, popped up down the street from the Clippers' home court, Staples Center. Note: African-American men are the predominate group living on Los Angeles' skid row, despite their being a small percentage of the city's population. This all done as Sterling's racist views reached beyond the effects on an NBA team, and well into the economics of a city. The idea that I don't want to be near those people, led to housing discrimination, black ghettos and poverty nationally. These are the active ways that race rears its ugly head in modern America. (The African American Dream: LBJ to Sterling Imperfect Progress)
For the NBA to now try to separate the Sterlings and their team is like cutting out a tree's roots. The league is acting like it cares about racism, rather than the effects this racial scandal can have on its all-American bottom line. The slight of hand is to make this entire issue about Sterling's words on a tape, rather than his actions in a city for the last 30 years. If the Clippers win the championship, it is more than racism winning. If the Clippers win the championship, as the franchise is handed the Larry O'Brien trophy, it signifies that consumerism has triumphed over morality. It makes it clear that we all just want to celebrate, even if the host we are celebrating with despises us. So if the Clippers win the championship, yes Donald Sterling wins as well.
Stay plugged in with the stories on black life and culture that matter. Learn more