Skip to main content

Plantation mentality thrives in L.A. Clippers owner's suite

By Paula Madison
April 28, 2014 -- Updated 1357 GMT (2157 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Paula Madison, former WNBA owner, outraged by comments linked to Donald Sterling
  • NBA owner allegedly told girlfriend he doesn't want her associating with blacks at games
  • Sterling's remarks could lead to severe punishment or even removal, says Madison

Editor's note: Paula Madison is the former owner of the L.A. Sparks of the WNBA. She is primary owner of the Africa Channel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has made his proverbial bed. And, oh, is he lying in it now.

The ugly comments about blacks and Latinos attributed to him have hit struck another nerve -- this time with players, fans and most decent-thinking Americans.

NBA players protest racist talk attributed to L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling

The tape released a few days ago reportedly shows that the person identified as Sterling can profess his own kind of love for a woman who's black and Latina but refuses to "allow" her to befriend her own kind: blacks and Latinos.

Paula Madison
Paula Madison

Sterling allegedly says his girlfriend (whom he at one point on the tape calls "stupid") can meet with blacks and sleep with blacks but not take pictures with them (in this case former Lakers star turned entrepreneur Earvin "Magic" Johnson) or bring them to Clippers games.

Like some slave owners who kept their mixed-race female slaves in better living conditions and bestowed privileges upon them, Sterling can allegedly be heard telling a woman identified as V. Stiviano that he doesn't have a problem with her or her race but that she shouldn't fraternize with blacks and Latinos because it disturbs him.

He selected her. So that makes her "special." She's not really black.

It sounds like Sterling, who has been married for nearly 50 years, shared a rarely heard perspective that his lover/girlfriend/mistress can mitigate the "inferiority" (my term) of her racial mixture by spending more time with him. Oh, yeah, Sterling is white.

The man on the recording appears to admonish and belittle her for posting photos on Instagram and calling attention to her willingness to interact with blacks -- and he holds particular distaste for Johnson, a man who is seen as a true "good guy" by many Angelenos.

NBA has 'options' to punish Sterling
NBA legend 'not surprised' by Sterling
'Magic' Johnson responds to racist rant

Sterling and his reported racist thoughts are not unique. What is unusual is that the sentiments were made public.

Sterling is the lead news story now, just days after another big news story focused on conservative hero rancher Cliven Bundy, who pondered whether blacks should have remained slaves.

"And I've often wondered," Bundy said, "are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?"

How many times and in how many ways do we see the impact of this kind of racist thinking by people holding powerful positions in our country's institutions and businesses? How many times do we have to hear proclaim "I'm not a racist" and think they can get away with it?

I'd love to hear their reaction to the Clippers' decision to wear their warmup shirts inside-out and toss their warmups in a pile at center court just before Sunday's Game 4. Would they ask, "how dare they?"

Reaction: 'Disturbing and offensive'

So thank goodness for the tape. California is a two-party consent recording state, meaning you cannot record a person's comments -- on the phone or in person -- without his/her permission.

However, Sterling seems to have consented to being recorded. A TMZ report alleges that his girlfriend routinely recorded their calls at his request because he sometimes forgot what he'd said to her, and she even played this recording back to him after he denied to her he made the racist statements.

Now, I don't understand what that's about, but I pray for a public outcry should Stiviano face any charges for recording Sterling's racist remarks.

As for what punishment Sterling might face, if the authentication process identifies the speaker as Sterling, there can be only one outcome: loss of his team ownership.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is a decent man. I know him from my days as majority owner of the WNBA L.A. Sparks. Silver is measured and thorough, and I, like most of the basketball world, eagerly await his decision on Sterling's discipline.

As a matter of course, a person, even a person with immense wealth, can't decide to own a team and then just buy one. NBA lawyers and financial folks pore through your background, including the source of your funds, your tax status, your character and community standing, etc. Then the Board of Governors has to vote you in as a member/owner.

And if, in the league's estimation, your status becomes a negative, the same Board of Governors can vote you out as a member/owner. It will be Silver's decision to take it to the board, but any board member can initiate a motion to terminate an owner's right to own the franchise.

So I await two things: verification that Donald Sterling is the person on the tape and the NBA's termination of his ownership of the L.A. Clippers.

Let's not let history repeat itself, again.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT