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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.

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