Getting it right but missing the whole picture: the coverage of NBA Los Angeles Clippers owner Don Sterling’s racist remarks

Yes, we can say with near-certainty that Los Angeles Clippers basketball team owner Don Sterling is a racist. You don’t even have to believe that the audio tape published by TMZ is in fact Sterling talking (but it sure does sound like him); there have been other lawsuits alleging discrimination, such as the 2009 wrongful termination lawsuit by the Clippers’ general manager, African-American Elgin Baylor, who claimed that Sterling said he wanted the team to be composed of “poor black boys from the South and a white head coach” (the suit was later dropped), and, that same year, the settlement of a Justice Department lawsuit alleging discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (this article provides a good picture of the Slumlord Billionaire), which was the largest housing discrimination settlement ever obtained by the Justice Department. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But this latest example has had the effect of focusing attention on Sterling’s entire racist oeuvre, along with the question of the scope of legal and moral responsibility to the public that a sports team and a league might have.

Predictably, politics has entered it, with some Republican pundits trying to confuse and defuse the Cliven Bundy issues by tying the two racists together to cancel them out, shouting that Democrats are keeping quiet about Sterling’s racism because he’s a Democrat! Democrat pundits shout: no, wait, Sterling’s a Republican! Others chime in: no, wait, he contributes to both parties!

This issue has nothing to do with partisan politics or Continue reading