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"Donald Sterling Continues To Get Away With Being The Most Evil Man In Sports"
November 27, 2009 5:28 PM   Subscribe

The Donald Sterling Rule "Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling lives by his own rules. And the only one that matters, apparently, is this: all bad deeds go unpunished. Over the last six years, nearly two dozen L.A. residents have sued Sterling for engaging in racist housing practices and Jim Crow-style bigotry. In a 2003 deposition, the 76-year-old real estate mogul admitted to paying a former employee to have sex with him in an elevator. Three years ago, the U.S. government charged him with "willful" mistreatment of African-American and Latino tenants, and earlier this month, he agreed to pay the Dept. of Justice nearly $3 million to settle a federal racial-discrimination housing lawsuit, the largest award ever for a case of its kind." So why, asks California's Tenants Together, has the NBA said nothing about Sterling's less than sterling behavior? posted by ocherdraco (27 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why has the NBA said nothing about Sterling's less than sterling behavior ?

I suspect them being unable to find another millionaire stupid enough to own a basketball team in the same city as the Lakers...
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:33 PM on November 27, 2009


I suspect them being unable to find another millionaire stupid enough to own a basketball team in the same city as the Lakers...

Couldn't they just move the team somewhere else?
posted by delmoi at 5:47 PM on November 27, 2009


They could, but who the hell would want the Clippers? They're the professional sports version of a toxic waste dump.
posted by dw at 5:54 PM on November 27, 2009


Couldn't they just move the team somewhere else?

I don't think Sterling would be welcome anywhere else, and while growing a decent team outside of the Lakers' shadow is possible, it will take longer than most mayors/city councilcritters have until their next election, so not a political plus.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:00 PM on November 27, 2009


I suspect them being unable to find another millionaire stupid enough to own a basketball team in the same city as the Lakers...

Sterling's an A-1 grade jackass, and the NBA would love to be rid of him. And if he sold right now, he'd make a very handsome profit.

Unfortunately, they can't force him out. They could encourage a sale, sure, but Sterling's business mantra is famously, "Buy something that already takes money in. As long as year-to-year cashflow is even one percent positive, don't ever sell it."

For the past 40 years, this has been a fine business model for every NBA owner. It's even better if you truly don't care whether you win games or not, because then you can peel off huge profits every year.

They play in the second-largest TV market in the country. They have a sweetheart lease deal as the No. 2 tenant in a world-class arena (note that Sterling doesn't care if he's No. 1). NBA owners have a salary cap, which means fixed labor costs, and free agents will keep playing there because a) it's in Los Angeles and b) a salary cap means there's a salary floor, too, so someone has to be paid something. The Clippers famously keep all their ancillary costs at rock bottom.

In other words, the Clippers make money, every single year.

Sterling ain't going anywhere.

dammit
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:04 PM on November 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


Couldn't they just move the team somewhere else?

This presupposes that there is another city that is A) large enough to support an NBA franchise and B) does not yet have a major sports franchise (or at least an NBA team). Right now, there probably isn't. At least half a dozen teams are bleeding money right now - Charlotte, Memphis, Sacramento, Indiana, Milwaukee, and Minnesota are all desperate. Even Philadelphia, the friggin' 76ers, are having bad money days right now.

Some of them will recover, but some of them probably won't - or will become the equivalent of what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were for nearly twenty years in the NFL, the joke team that's an auto-win and barely stays afloat because it doesn't have anybody worth paying a large salary to.

Where's the NBA gonna go? There aren't that many Oklahoma Cities out there, places starved for a major-league sports franchise that can support what will essentially be a second-tier team that occasionally competes for the brass ring (because the only reason true top talent goes to an Oklahoma City is A) because they live close by or B) because they think they just might be The Franchise Player and that appeals to their ego).
posted by mightygodking at 6:12 PM on November 27, 2009


From a sports perspective, the problem with the Clippers is they're not a team as much as a roster of 12 cheap players constructed not to win as much as maximize profits from revenue-sharing. In essence, as long as Sterling runs out a team that is cheap enough to attract enough fans to keep the lights on, he'll always make wheelbarrows full of cash from his share of the league TV contract and merchandising.

The craziest thing of all is that living in the shadow of the Lakers is actually helping him make money. His eternal excuse for not being able to field a decent team is that he's in the shadow of the Lakers. Meanwhile, he rode on the Lakers' Staples Center plans and got the same super-sweet lease deal they did. And the Clippers being the "second" team means he's been able to avoid the local and national media spotlight that is magnetically attracted to Kobe, Phil Jackson, and the circus that is Lakers basketball.

All while the Lakers are essentially writing him a check out of their profits to field a team that goes straight into his bank account.

If he were the only franchise in any other city, the local media would be picking him over, he'd have no big team to lamprey off of for a subsidized arena deal, and his only option would be to carpetbag the team from small city to small city living off the five years of civic pride while looking to break the lease the moment he could, inviting still more scrutiny. And heaven forbid he'd be the only show in town like the Blazers, Kings, and Thunder are.

In short, he's making a killing living under the radar. Everyone knows the Clippers could be successful -- after all, the Knicks and Nets have co-existed pretty well for years in a similar metropolis, and both teams have made the playoffs in the last decade. The fact they're not should tip people off to the reality of what Sterling is doing here. That is, laughing all the way to the bank. So long as it's one of those Koreans who's handling his money, not those smelly black people.
posted by dw at 6:14 PM on November 27, 2009


They could, but who the hell would want the Clippers? They're the professional sports version of a toxic waste dump.

It sounds like that was his strategy. Put together a shitty team as cheaply as possible, and then make money off the NBA's revenue sharing deals. If an owner actually wanted to make money off of it, they could probably do so in a few years.
posted by delmoi at 6:15 PM on November 27, 2009


Where's the NBA gonna go? There aren't that many Oklahoma Cities out there, places starved for a major-league sports franchise

Nonsense. Basketball fans in Seattle would like to speak with you.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 6:15 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


There aren't that many Oklahoma Cities out there

If you mean "places with zero pro franchises looking for one," then yeah, you're looking at Las Vegas, Birmingham, Tulsa, Louisville, and maybe Norfolk. But Las Vegas' boom is well over, and Birmingham is close to filing for bankruptcy, Tulsa is only 100 miles from Oklahoma City, and Louisville has fewer major companies than Oklahoma City did when they stole the Sonics.

If you expand it out to "cities with pro franchises looking for an NBA/NHL team," though, then you're now including Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Seattle, St. Louis and maybe Baltimore. But of those five, only KC has a new arena built in the last five years that lacks any major tenants.

If the NBA needed to move the Clippers tomorrow, Kansas City is the obvious choice. There's no reason to think they would, though.
posted by dw at 6:26 PM on November 27, 2009


The Clippers have already been a lot of places, including San Diego at one point.

I'm a little surprised they don't move down the road to Orange County. You can still piggyback off the TV market and pretend to be an "L.A." team, but it's a distinct team location because it's so suburban- no one from L.A. is going to drive all the way down there for a game, and O.C. people tend to come north as little as possible. The area already supports its own baseball and hockey teams. And it sounds like Sterling's views on race relations would fit in a lot better there than in L.A. proper.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:36 PM on November 27, 2009


Also, you know how the Lakers have a brigade of celebrity fans, led by Jack Nicholson?

The Clippers' celebrity fans are Billy Crystal and "Malcolm in the Middle." You can't make this stuff up.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:38 PM on November 27, 2009


Who are Clippers fans? I have some sense of which New Yorkers cheer for the Yankees and which for the Mets, and that there are a lot of each type. Are there a lot of kids who grow up loving the Clippers?
posted by escabeche at 8:05 PM on November 27, 2009


Isn't this the same business model as the Florida Marlins and Minnesota Twins?
posted by maxwelton at 8:21 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Deadspin has pointed out this double standard in comparison to NBA players.
posted by nestor_makhno at 8:30 PM on November 27, 2009


Isn't this the same business model as the Florida Marlins and Minnesota Twins?

And the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Royals, ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:55 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nonsense. Basketball fans in Seattle would like to speak with you.

I'm a basketball fan in Seattle, and although I can't speak for everyone I can say that many of us have gotten over the NBA and wouldn't support another team moving here. Donald Sterling is just one more example of how the NBA has made basketball into a product, to the detriment of the sport. Sure, there are good owners, good teams and good games. But those are offset by the NBA's business model of milking its host cities for every dollar they can get; the duplicitous commissioner, David Stern, who will spew platitudes about integrity when he's imposing fines or handing out suspensions but has no integrity of his own and is only concerned with profitability, and thus has nothing at all to say about Sterling; the referees, who officiate games in such a way as to "give the fans what they want to see" -- meaning that the league's stars play by a completely different set of rules than everyone else; the owners like Sterling who don't even make an effort to field a competitive team because that would cut into their profits.

I was one of the people who went to a lot of Sonics games, bought their merchandise, and argued with people who, when the possibility of relocation to Oklahoma came up, said we should just let them go because we don't need them here. But now I've done a complete 180, and if another team were to consider moving to Seattle I would actively work to prevent that from happening if it involved even one cent of tax revenue. Any politicians who try to use public funds to build a state-of-the-art basketball facility in hopes of luring the NBA back to Seattle will hear loud disapproval from myself and anyone else I can persuade to contact them. Unless the NBA makes some wholesale changes, I want no part of subsidizing a team in Seattle. You could call it sour grapes, and to a certain extent you'd probably be right, but it's also a result of having the rose-colored fan glasses removed and being able to see things in a more realistic light.

That said, I'll still watch and enjoy NBA games if I come across them on TV, because basketball is still a great sport, even the one-on-one, isolation-style, feel-free-to-travel-or-pick-up-your-dribble-or-foul-the-everloving-hell-out-of-your-opponent-if-you-have-a-shoe-contract-and-kids-want-to-buy-your-jersey version that the NBA rolls out on a nightly basis. NBA players are still among the finest athletes in the world, and are a joy to watch. I'm glad I got to see athletes like Gary Payton, Sean Kemp, and Ray Allen work their magic in person on a regular basis, and I miss not being able to go see players like Tim Duncan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant when they come to town. But the NBA coming back to Seattle? Nah. Screw 'em. High School and College hoops are fine with me.

[/tl;dr rant]
posted by Balonious Assault at 9:54 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always felt a sort of vague affinity for the Clippers. Not for Sterling, of course, but for the poor players under his evil thumb. I grew up in Houston, and will be Rockets fan until the day I die, if only for giving me two amazing championships when I was at a particularly impressionable age. I also dream of the day when I move back to New York and can become a season-ticket-holder for the Brooklyn Nets (currently 0-16 in New Jersey!) because fuck it - Brooklyn is my home, no matter where I am at the moment. Still, I'll be spending at least the next few years living in L.A., and I can't really get behind the Lakers for the same reasons I can't really get behind the Yankees, even if I weren't a Sox fan. But it's not like I could justify going to a Clippers game when the money from my ticket would flow into Sterling's pocket. But then again, I guess the money from any NBA game goes into Sterling's pocket in some small amount...

I don't understand the intricacies, if there's any way at all to force him out. If there is, Stern should do so, but Stern is gutless except when public grandstanding opportunities come along. It'd be nice if L.A. took the next sweetheart deal as a chance to buy him out or else deny him whatever he was looking for. It'd be even better if they then sold the team to a city that could support it with fans instead of just an arena. dw seems to know what he's talking about as far as viable cities are concerned, but I'd add that Tulsa is far enough away from OKC that people aren't going to willing to travel for a basketball game, and that Montreal (or perhaps a city in Mexico, like Monterrey, which made a play for the Expos before Bud Selig sent them to Washington inexplicably) could support a basketball team pretty well in the right conditions.

Even better than that would be a situation like the Packers have, where ownership is distributed among the local fans. How this set-up, which has proven in Green Bay to be the best one possible, has yet to be repeated elsewhere (to the best of my admittedly limited knowledge) is beyond me, except that you've got greedy owners like Sterling, who don't give a shit except for where even a single next dime is coming from, and commissioners like Stern, who are scared to speak even a word against an owner, even one as awful as Donald Sterling.

If you've ever seen Hoop Dreams, you have an idea of how damn-near-impossible it is to get an NBA contract, and how much you give up in order to get even a chance to get to that level. Can you imagine doing that only to end up playing for the Clippers?

It's funny. This sort of thing makes me think of dumb comedies like Major League or BASEketball, where teams went up against nefarious owners in order to prove their worth and stop evil plans. But in those movies, the evil plans were to move the teams to greener pastures. Sterling has no interest in anything that noble. He's like the IngSoc of sports owners, a boot crushing the face of the men who fought like hell their whole lives to get into the elite levels of their sport, worn by a racist son of a bitch who doesn't even want them to win because that kind of attention pulls a spotlight over to all the skeezy shit he's pulling.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:39 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


escabeche: I have some sense of which New Yorkers cheer for the Yankees and which for the Mets, and that there are a lot of each type. Are there a lot of kids who grow up loving the Clippers?

No.
posted by joedan at 1:07 AM on November 28, 2009


Montreal (or perhaps a city in Mexico, like Monterrey, which made a play for the Expos before Bud Selig sent them to Washington inexplicably) could support a basketball team pretty well in the right conditions.

The NBA has several problems when it comes to the Canada:
1- One franchise has already failed there and moved to the U.S. (Vancouver Grizzlies)
2 - Taxes (whenever I hear a player talking about being traded to Toronto they are opposed due to the taxes on their salary, among other things).

Mexico would be a great idea, esp since the NBA has been playing a lot of pre-season games down there.
posted by Asbestos McPinto at 9:28 AM on November 28, 2009


why...has the NBA said nothing about Sterling's less than sterling behavior?

Because if they did they'd have to say something about the players behavior?
posted by kjs3 at 5:04 PM on November 28, 2009


The NBA responds to offcourt behavior strongly, moreso than NFL or MLB. Conviction of a crime usually ends up in suspension and loss of pay in the NBA. Granted, a DUI costing you a game isn't exactly heavy punishment, but there are very few alleged (and 'cleared') murderers becoming MVP in the NFL. Also, to the best of my knowledge, no active NBA player has ever tried to put a hit on his pregnant girlfriend.

Sorry, tired of talking to people who love football, but complain that the NBA is full of thugs, usually as a way to excuse their next, usually racist comment.

Of course, there's still Kobe Bryant, Ruben Patterson, and more than likely several other unpleasant people/people who should be behind bars in the league, and, of course, Mr. Sterling.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:56 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


But now I've done a complete 180, and if another team were to consider moving to Seattle I would actively work to prevent that from happening if it involved even one cent of tax revenue.

It's extremely unlikely any future NBA will be playing inside the city limits. The referendum that prevents money being spent on building city facilities without paying for themselves took care of that. And no NBA team would play in the Key without there being a guarantee of a new arena.

What will likely happen is one of three things:
1. An existing arena -- the Tacoma Dome or Everett Arena -- would be renovated and/or expanded. This is unlikely, I think. Everett is too far north, and the T-Dome would lose its ability to host anything but basketball.

2. A new arena will be built by a suburb, more than likely Bellevue. But there was no political will to do it in Bellevue last time out, and I doubt there will be until the economy recovers. There was more will in Renton, but again, they need a tax base, and with this economy it's just not there.

3. A tribe, e.g. the Muckleshoots, would build an arena to attract a team. This almost happened during the Sonics debacle, but the OKC ownership rejected it because of a lack of infrastructure... and they weren't going anywhere but OKC.

So, I don't think the Sonics are coming back any time soon, if ever. There's talk of an NHL team, but the Key needs to be realigned to be hockey suitable, and again, there's no way that can happen with the referendum as it is.

dw seems to know what he's talking about as far as viable cities are concerned, but I'd add that Tulsa is far enough away from OKC that people aren't going to willing to travel for a basketball game

Actually, they already are. Tulsa is ~105 miles from OKC, or about what Hartford is from NYC and Boston, or what Sacramento is from San Jose. Not enough to own season tickets, but enough to draw weekend sales. Tulsa + Oklahoma City together have about 2.3M people, or about what metro Pittsburgh has, which probably isn't big enough to support two NBA teams.
posted by dw at 10:45 AM on November 29, 2009


plus NBA owners are a colloquy of back-scratchers. why would they ever force out an asshole like Sterling, knowing that the same chickens could come home to roost at their house some day?
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:01 PM on November 29, 2009


Isn't this the same business model as the Florida Marlins and Minnesota Twins?

Not exactly, the Marlins are weird because they tend to be good every so often in spite of themselves (I think the reasoning is that they are holding off for a new stadium), and have won 2 world championships since coming into existence in the 90's which both times were followed up by fire sales of all talent on the team. The Twins are an exemplary organization and consistently field a strong well rounded team that plays well above what their market would dictate, they essentially do it the right way, but they cannot really compete with franchises that spend 4 times as much for talent unfortunately.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:02 AM on November 30, 2009


You might want to reconsider about the Twins being disingenuous or welfare queens, maxwelton: the Twinkies are doing the best they can in a state where the fans are just frugal. Too few people, crummy cable deal, etc., etc. Also, there's years of people hating the Pohlads: long memories there.

When minor league ball came to town, a lot of folks drove a couple miles west and went to watch Saints games instead.

And Mauer, like Molitor before him, is a local product (Cretin-Derham Hall, formerly Cretin High School). And shut up about that name -- the namesake was a bishop -- unles you want to take it outside.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:12 AM on November 30, 2009


He was just interviewed by the LA Times. They talked a little about the settlement:

"I didn't pay a penny -- the insurance company did," he says, giving his one-sided account of the suit. "I'm glad you brought it up because I don't think it hurt me at all. The reason it was settled was because they didn't have one person to stand up and say I discriminated against them. If they had the one person, I'm high profile and they would've liked to have gone at it.

Donald Sterling received the NAACP Los Angeles Chapter lifetime achievement award this May:

"At the end of the day (night), all that can be said was that he gives kids tickets to basketball games (how else would you get them to a Clipper game?). It was enough to choke on your chicken. And then he left the award sitting on the table while he left for the hotel bar."

He also has been taking out full page ads in the LA Times for more than three years now:

Sterling announced his plans in a splashy ad in The Times three months ago and has been communicating his intentions for the project largely through a series of additional advertisements. The Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation, the ads announced, was buying a 65,000-square-foot lot near Wall and 6th streets and spending $50 million to provide homeless housing, a rehabilitation center and medical services on the site.

The LA Weekly wanted to find out what was happenning: “It’s the lowest of the low if he’s using the homeless to make himself look good,” she says. “Or it’s the dumbest of the dumb. No one builds those kinds of shelters down here anymore. He’s a businessman. He can make anything happen. So if it’s not happening, there’s a reason for it.”


He stopped his ads for a while after the LA Weekly article but restarted them months later: These days, though, Sterling’s vow to help the homeless is looking more like a troubling, ego-inflating gimmick dreamed up by a very rich man with a peculiar public-relations sense: Witness his regular advertisements proclaiming another “humanitarian of the year” award — for himself. From homeless-services operators to local politicians, no one has received specifics for the proposed Sterling Homeless Center. They aren’t the least bit convinced that the project exists.


The LA Times hasn't questioned him about his intentions for the "homeless center" or his $50 million pledge and it hasn't written any followup since the original ariticle in 2006. It has continued to run ads, though I don't know when the last one ran. I don't read the LA Times anymore, and advertisements don't seem to be searchable.
posted by GregorWill at 11:14 AM on November 30, 2009


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