About a decade ago, my brother happened upon a bike that was locked to a tree. This in and of itself is nothing all that noteworthy. It happens all the time on campus where he was attending school, even though there are bicycle racks available. Some people just go for the trees. Whatever, it’s not really hurting anyone.
But this one was different. Instead of chaining the bike to one of the tall Georgia Pines that populate the campus, this student had chosen to lock his bike up at what can best be described as a slightly larger Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It wouldn’t have necessarily been easy to get the bike unchained from the tree, but it wouldn’t have been difficult either. All someone would have to do is lift the bike up to their shoulders and they could have easily walked away with the bike if they wanted it.
Had my brother just told us the story, it would have been an amusing story from his time in college. But luckily for us, he had his phone with him and was able to take a picture. Granted, this was 2004ish and phones on cameras weren’t all that great, but nevertheless, there was a photo of this tiny little tree and a bike locked to it as though it would be safe. Having the picture turned it from a cool little story to something I’ve remembered 10 years later.
I bring this up in the wake of the Donald Sterling comments recorded by his girlfriend and released over the weekend in which he admonishes her for having photos on her Instagram with Magic Johnson and Matt Kemp, who happen to be black. It should be mentioned that Sterling’s girlfriend is half-black, half-Latino, maybe a third his age (he’s 81), and, oh yeah, he’s still married. He also makes several other racist comments throughout the conversation that are also released on the tape.
These comments have led to an outrage that resulted in Sterling being banned from the NBA for life and it’s probable that he will be forced to sell the team. That’s all well and good, but Sterling has been a known scumbag in NBA circles for years.
This was written in 2006 and lays out the sordid tale of the NBA’s (and perhaps North American Sport’s) worst owner as someone charged with housing discrimination for refusing to rent to blacks and Koreans. Remember the outrage then? Don’t worry, you didn’t miss it. There wasn’t any. I can’t say for certain why that was, but I have a theory.
There wasn’t a tape. There wasn’t video of Sterling actively discriminating against people entirely on the basis of race. There wasn’t some audio recording for us to hear to be confronted with it. Instead there was boring court documents with legal writing and procedures to follow. That’s not fun. That’s not sexy. It’s not something the public can sink its teeth in to and feel morally outraged at.
But now we have a tape. We can hear the man saying things that no decent person should ever think, let alone say. So now we can get outraged and shocked with our righteous indignation and demand our pound of flesh, which NBA Commissioner Adam Silver provided yesterday with his punishment.
Silver also fairly dodged the question of why the NBA tolerated, if not enabled, Sterling for so long. Silver has only been commissioner for less than three months. And while he has worked in the NBA since 1992, it wasn’t his place to dispense punishments. But it does raise the question of why former NBA commissioner David Stern hasn’t been heard from since the tapes were released. There are people like me who would love to hear why the league did nothing to Sterling in the past.
Then again, I think I know the answer.
We had an audio recording now.