While the racist comments of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling shocked the sports world, they came as no surprise to those who have followed his record, explains sports columnist Dave Zirin on Democracy Now! today.
"The warning signs of Donald Sterling's racism, egregious behavior, and misogyny go back more than a decade -- and the league has coddled him," Zirin says. "There is a racism culture in the ownership ranks of the NBA. ... In other words, not every owner is as outwardly racist as Donald Sterling, but for decades they have chosen to enable him and look the other way."
In 2009, Sterling paid more than $2.7 million to settle federal allegations of driving out people of color from apartment buildings he owns. Former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor also sued Sterling for racial bias, but lost in court.
While the details of a likely investigation into Sterling remain to be seen, the Clippers are scheduled to make their first home playoff appearance since the story broke. In their previous game on the road, Clippers players staged a silent protest by wearing their warm-ups inside out and wearing black socks.
"The athletes are pushing the conversation forward," Zirin says. "What we don't want them to do is nothing."
Zirin outlines the broader issue of racism in American society. "We're so quick to attack people who say racist things," he says. "Yet we don't look at the manifestations of institutionalized racism."
While Zirin predicts that the NBA will likely suspend Sterling today, he hopes that the league decides to take more drastic action.
"What [Commissioner Silver] should do is turn the L.A. Clippers into a public utility for the city of Los Angeles, or into a fan-owned team like the Green Bay Packers -- frankly as a form of reparations for all the harm that Donald Sterling has done not only to the fans of the Clippers team -- but literally to the thousands of people who live in his housing projects in Los Angeles who have been harmed by his financial existence."
Zirin also asserts that billionaire sports franchise owners are out of touch with their communities in so many ways.
"We're living in an era where the public pays for stadiums, we show up to watch players. Owners are superfluous in a 21st century sports environment, and if Donald Sterling doesn't realize that, I think he's getting a crash-course in that this week," Zirin says.
Click here to read the full transcript from Dave Zirin's interview on Democracy Now! today.