OPINION: Once a bigot, always a bigot

Published 4:39 pm Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When I first caught wind of NBA owner Donald Sterling’s alleged racist remarks, exposed courtesy of the ever-vigilant TMZ, the knee-jerk reaction was the fairly standard trio of surprise, anger and more than a little bit of disgust.

But not long afterward, following the overnight public outrage, Twitter rants and a lot of water cooler discussion, I’ve had time to accept that we should’ve seen this coming.

For the uninitiated, Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was seemingly caught on tape telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to his games, including Magic Johnson, who made a guest appearance in one of her more recent Instagram photos.

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But that’s not all—Sterling went on to insult essentially all intelligent life throughout the course of the original nine-minute clip, all the while declaring that he is not, in fact, a racist.

The voice recording has since been upgraded with a director’s cut of sorts that adds six additional minutes of further incriminating material, full of distasteful quips that aren’t appropriate enough to reproduce here.

But this is hardly the first time a prominent figure has said something candidly that offended at least an entire culture of people.

It isn’t even the first time for Sterling.

In 2009, Sterling was caught in the middle of a debacle that would become the largest housing discrimination lawsuit payout of all time, in which he attempted to evict residents from his properties based entirely on their ethnicity.

It was in the middle of this crap storm that we received such quotable gems as “I don’t like Mexican men because they smoke, drink and just hang around the house.”

And who can forget the ever-popular line, “black tenants smell and attract vermin.”

When you really think about it, the fact that these past transgressions weaseled out of the collective public consciousness is almost more impressive than this newfound display of bigotry.


So it comes as little surprise that NBA commissioner Adam Silver moved Tuesday to ban Sterling for life from any association with the L.A. Clippers or the NBA, effective immediately.

He was also handed a fine totaling to a cool $2.5 million, which, at least contextually speaking, is a drop in the bucket.

But perhaps Sterling’s remarks and subsequent dismissal aren’t the real issue here.

Maybe it’s that an offhanded remark made it what was believed to be in privacy could result in such catastrophic consequences.

And, just maybe, the constant scrutiny that people in positions of power are constantly subjected to became a little more tolerable.