Skip to main content

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

By Paula Madison
updated 9:57 AM EDT, Mon April 28, 2014
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
updated 12:48 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 11:42 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT