Reading Between the (Head)Lines

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Donald Sterling Proves Racism Persists In America

Can/Should Sterling be forced to sell his NBA team?

We cannot control what others think or say, but the alleged racial rant from Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers, is offensive, disgusting and un-defendable. Sterling and his girlfriend, Vivian Stiviano, were having an argument and a recording was activated in the middle of the dispute. There is some minor debate as to whether the tape was doctored, so all quotes attributed to Sterling are alleged at this time, not verified.

Listening to the tape in its entirety, it is apparent Sterling wanted to just be done with the argument, already, but Stiviano kept pressing him to continue. If it's true that she promised to "get even" with him for a lawsuit claiming the embezzlement of $1.8 million, then she certainly has kept her promise.

The argument referenced a photo of she and Magic Johnson on Instagram. In the recording he says, "I've known him well, and he should be admired. And I'm just saying that it's too bad you can't admire him privately. And during your ENTIRE FUCKING LIFE, your whole life, admire him -- bring him here, feed him, fuck him, I don't care. You can do anything. But don't put him on an Instagram for the world to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games. Ok?"

But Sterlingate doesn't stop there. He also told Stiviano not to bring any black people to his games -- and he did not want her to post any more photos with black people on Instagram. The situation becomes even more surreal because Stiviano is of mixed race -- black and Mexican. So, in his mind, it’s okay for him to date a woman who is part black as long as she doesn’t hang out with blacks?

Wait, there's another two scoops of crazy that goes along with the story. Sterling has a long history of donating to minority causes as well as giving game tickets to inner city children. As part of the Los Angeles branch's 100th anniversary celebration, the NAACP was scheduled to honor Sterling, 80, with a lifetime achievement award on May 15, 2014. That ceremony has obviously been canceled. Don’t try to understand any of the above using logic; racism is by all accounts illogical.

Unfortunately, even today there are many who still hold tightly to racist views. They just don't get caught voicing these thoughts out loud. Nor are they billionaires who refuse to rent real estate to certain minorities and own an NBA team. Sterling has a history of bigotry, but this time he clearly went too far and it will hit him in the pocket book. Some long time sponsors such as Carmax, Kia Motors, Virgin America, Red Bull, Chumash Casino and State Farm have already bailed out of the Clipper ship, and more may follow.

It is not illegal to be a racist, so he will not face legal issues over his views within the recording. Yet, in the end, the hammer came down Tuesday afternoon from NBA commissioner Adam Silver. The punishment: Sterling will be banned for life, fined $2.5 million and pending a vote of the owners forced to sell the team. The ban means he cannot attend any NBA game or practice, be in any Clippers office or facility or be part of any personnel or business decision involving the Clippers. His punishment from the NBA was not a slam dunk, but early social media reaction shows the majority of folks support the commissioner.

As for Stiviano, she is not in the clear. In California, recording a conversation without the knowledge of both individuals brings a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail. As of yet it is unknown if charges will be brought against her.

As for something you say resulting in the potential loss of ownership of property, Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks has a different take. He claims the racial comments are "abhorrent", then said, "In this country people are allowed to be morons. They're allowed to be stupid. They're allowed to think idiotic thoughts. ...But regardless of your background, regardless of the history they have, if we're taking something somebody said in their home and we're trying to turn it into something that leads to you being forced to divest property in any way, shape or form, that's not the United States of America. I don't want to be a part of that."

Do you think the punishment was justified? Even more importantly will it make a difference?

Dale Archer, M.D., is a clinical psychiatrist and author of The New York Times bestseller, Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional.

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