It was just another twist in the wild and crazy saga that is Donald Sterling vs. the NBA.
The embattled former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers began the Monday afternoon trial, which will decide who will control the $2 billion team, conspicuously absent. Oh yeah. The cantankerous 80-year-old—who was forced to sell the team by NBA ownership after the fallout from brazenly racist comments he made about African-Americans during a taped April conversation—also attempted to move the case from California probate court through his lawyer. The judge rejected the motion, no doubt marveling at Sterling's sheer Chutzpah. Yes, boys and girls, this trial promises to be a clusterfuck of epic proportions as the man at the center of this riveting sports soap opera is scheduled to take the stand this afternoon.
Not surprisingly, everyone has a view on how things will shape up, including NBA player turned star basketball analyst Jalen Rose. VIBE caught up with Michigan's Fab Five college legend and Bill Simmons' outspoken road dog to get his thoughts on how we got to this point, why Sterling's disturbing racial views should be allowed, and what will happen if he wins his high profiled case. Buckle up. —Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)
"If you are the other 29 owners in the NBA, you want Donald Sterling to win in this [trial]. Because he ran the Clippers with incompetence. Sterling's team had the worst record for 30 years in the four major professional sports at 37 percent. For competition sake, you want to keep Sterling around! [Laughs] But let's not forget how we got to this situation. Listening to Sterling talk about blacks was as close to listening to a plantation owner. It's interesting that even through all the legal back and forth that is happening now that no one is talking about the fact that this is an 80-year-old man who grew up in the United States where we have had slavery and segregation. We needed a civil rights bill to be passed in the late '60s because our country treated blacks and other minorities, including women, like second class citizens. In the late '60s, by that math, Sterling was in his 40's. That truly shows you the mentality Sterling has, no matter what he says. But I don't want to put it as an isolated incident that there's a chance that he's the only sports owner that holds racist views—especially at Sterling's age or in their '50s. Of course there's some people who are going to feel like that. It just so happens that one of them owns an NBA team and we heard his views on a recording.
Looking back, I think the players deserved more respect for how they handled the Sterling situation. If you stand for nothing you will fall for anything. I want all people who hope for change in any way, shape or form to know that there always has to be some sort of sacrifice for you to be able to benefit from the change that you are able to benefit from in this country. There's a reason why we look up to a sports figures like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won four championships in high school; three in college; would have had four if you counted his freshman year, but wasn't eligible; six championships in the NBA and six MVP's! Along with Bill Russell—all I got to say is 11 championships in 13 years—these are two Mount Rushmore figures. I look at the picture of them two along with Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali in my office everyday; they were taking a stand for equality. I also look at the picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos everyday. So there's a reason why we respect them. Civil dignity meant more to them than dollars. That's something we don't see a lot of today.
But there's another side to this, and here's the tricky part. If Donald Sterling really dislikes black people, which by the way he does, you cannot be mad at someone for not liking you for your race, your sex, sexuality or your gender. It's okay for an individual to have ignorant views. Our country has come a long way. I appreciate the progress we have made, especially in the NBA. It's a majority black league from the coaches to the GM's. And there is black ownership as well. There is a real diversity; a progressive diversity. We have female refs and female executives. The NBA has been at the forefront of a lot of change. The NBA has embraced international prospects. Even with all that, a person should be allowed to feel how they want to feel. I personally have no problem with someone not liking me because of my height, my teeth, or my race. That's fine. You have to have thick skin out here.
The problem is Donald Sterling is in a position of power. But let's not turn our head from the real issue, which is the plantation mentality. If Sterling bought the Clippers for $15 million feeling that way and he's still forced to sell the team for over $2 billion by a judge, he's still profited off the labor by those he talked about. So Sterling's true punishment is not to be in the club anymore; to not be one of the exclusive owners of an NBA franchise and have the label of being the only person banned for life from the league.
But if you are keeping score of the game, it's hard to say that Donald Sterling hasn't won.
The elephant in the room is what will happen when the new season begins if Sterling wins this case? What happens during the training camp if you are the 450 players, but Sterling is still profiting and owning the team? That right there is the line in the sand we should be watching for."