I'm not a big sports fan, though I keep abreast of the general headlines. I particularly become interested when UCLA is in the Rose Bowl or the Dodgers are in the World Series, though admittedly neither event happens too often. I also followed Andy Roddick's tennis career and was dismayed along with others when he missed his chance at the Wimbledon title after that breathtaking final with Roger Federer in 2009.
However, when sports intertwines with politics it becomes a different story, and I joined millions of others in disbelief and dismay when I heard the weird and awful things L.A. Clippers longtime owner Donald Sterling had to say about blacks and other minorities.
I won't belabor the fine points, as they've been discussed ad nausea and he's been sentenced to banishment by the NBA.
But we were warned that this was a man who wouldn't go quietly and we wondered what possibly he could do, especially if keeping control of the team for a much longer time would not only cost him sponsorships and diminish his players heart in the game, but also risk a potential plummeting of the now-estimated one billion dollar purchase price should he sell in the short term.
Well, who would'a thunk? No one anticipated that he'd enlist his wife Shelly to essentially take the role of Lurleen Wallace in order to keep the team in the family.
For those who might not remember or even know, George Wallace was the governor of Alabama, who in 1963 stood in the door of his state's university to prevent black students from attending the school. Only when he was confronted by the state's National Guard, which was federalized by President Kennedy, did he stand aside. It made international headlines and was a moral scandal. Nonetheless, he was still very popular in a state then dominated by the racism that pervaded the old South, and when he was termed out as governor his solution was to run his wife in his place. He was very upfront about the matter and said that he would serve as her unpaid adviser, but everyone knew what he meant. He would be calling the shots.
Lurleen ran and naturally won, but, as fate would have it, had cancer and died a little over a year after being sworn in.
The tie-in to the Sterling story is incredible. Not only would a wife be used as a loophole, which might be difficult for the league to counter, certainly not in the short run, but because both scenarios are related to racism. Even more so that Sterling's racism is 50 years down the road from the Wallace period and even more intriguing that Wallace was again elected to the governorship after a period and gradually shod much of his nefarious past. In fact, in his final term he apologized for his segregationist views and made peace with African Americans.
As to the Sterlings, it will be interesting to see what transpires and whether Lurleen, er, Shelly will be able to get away with it. Hopefully, the NBA's lawyers will be smarter than Sterling's.
Michael Russnow's website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com