In April 2014, TMZ released a 10 minute audio recording where NBA Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, 80, and can be heard making a handful of racist remarks to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano. To sum up the argument between the two, Sterling rants about how enraged he is at Stiviano, who identifies herself as black and Mexican, for bringing African Americans to the Clippers games and for posting photos of herself with African Americans, including Lakers legend Magic Johnson, to her Instagram account. The recording triggered an uproar on many social media sites such as Twitter that led to Sterling’s lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine.
A few of Sterling’s words to his girlfriend were: “It bothers me a lot that you want to promo… broadcast that you’re associating with black people […] why publicize it on the Instagram and why bring it to my games?” He continues by saying: “How about your whole life, everyday, you could do whatever you want. You can sleep with them, you can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that… and not to bring them to my games.” The argument clearly demonstrates how racism is still a very on-going thing in today’s world.
Sterling attempted to apologize in an interview by explaining: “I made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I’m here with you today to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I’ve hurt.” This also brings about the argument that people such as the owners of professional, multimillionaire NBA teams who are well known throughout the country hold a higher standard to be morally and politically correct about controversial topics such as racism, especially within an industry that is highly consisted of African Americans.
After Sterling conveyed frustration that his girlfriend associated with people of “minorities,” in public and on social media sites such as Instgram, sponsors quickly began leaving LA Clipper organizations that Sterling headed, even Magic Johnson. Hardwood Paroxysm tweeted that “Kia, CarMax, Virgin America, and State Farm have all pulled sponsorship support of the Clippers.
Additionally, Doc Rivers, the Clippers coach, had a difficult time getting his players focused during the media attention Sterling was receiving. The racist comments were hurtful to them as well and distracted them from their game. Rivers had to motivate his players to learn from Sterling’s mistake and get them to move on and begin to focus once again on winning their games. Rivers addressed his concerns about the teams focus by tweeting himself. In Sterling’s recorded conversation with his girlfriend, he uses specific names as examples of which his girlfriend should not post pictures with or bring to the Clipper’s games. Magic Johnson was one who Sterling pointed out in his conversation. Magic appeared on talk shows and the news addressing his views and concerns regarding Sterling’s racist conversation. Many NBA players, past and present, voiced their opinions via social media sites. This conversation made headlines causing President Barack Obama to criticize Sterling’s behavior and words. Players even began stating they will never attend Clippers games again if Donald Sterling was still there. Earvin Magic Johnson tweeted “.@cjbycookie and I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner.” A full investigation was held on the audio conversation that was recorded and Steve Ballmer eventually replaced Donald Sterling, who was banned for life by the NBA for his racist remarks. Los Angeles News tweeted that the police were sent to Sterling’s home and within this article, it is confirmed that Sterling is now banned from the NBA for life. “Los Angeles News @LosAngeles_NC Oct 2Police Sent to Donald Sterling’s Home by Wife Shelly: Magic Johnson says he will pray for Donald Sterling.Phot… http://bit.ly/YRHn4Q.”
After listening to the ten minute audio tape of Sterling’s racist comments to his girlfriend, and reading all the comments bashing Sterling made on Social Media such as Twitter, one thing was made very clear: well-known figures in society are held to a higher standard when it comes to being morally and politically correct. Some may listen to the video and take Sterling’s side while understanding where his point of view is coming from. There may be people out there in this world that agree with his statement that “minorities are the enemy.” However, that is not what the reactions of NBA players proved. That is not what Twitter demonstrated. The public did not agree.
Both past and present NBA players voiced their strong opinions on the controversial topic over Twitter, the second largest and most popular social media site next to Facebook. Among these tweets was Magic Johnson, a former African American player who was brought up in Sterling’s conversation. Sterling told his girlfriend that he doesn’t want her broadcasting being with minorities. He doesn’t want her bringing black people to his games, even Magic Johnson.
Johnson spoke out on twitter by making the issue known to the public. The reading from Byrne earlier in the year taught us that online sites are a space to “rethink and reproduce social knowledge” and that’s exactly what these players did. Johnson tweeted that he will never attend a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner. The many other tweets by black NBA players may have played a part in Sterling getting banned from the NBA. Twitter then showed everyone’s approval and appraise to the decision of Sterling’s banning. Johnson then tweeted that he respected the commissioner who made the decision and that it showed great leadership. Johnson’s tweets may have influenced people’s point of view on this topic causing them to rethink their knowledge of this topic because he is a popular, famous figure who is well liked.
When critically analyzing this tape even further, many topics that we discussed in class throughout the semester so far seemed more and more obvious. For instance, Sterling was trying to explain to his girlfriend that racism is a cultural thing. He stated that the feelings of people toward other races is natural and that’s just the way things are in life. It truly seemed that Sterling was not aware he was being racist at all which reminded us of what we learned the first week of class; racism is often unintentional and subconscious. White people tend to show signs of white supremacy and don’t even know it.
Sterling also demonstrates Daniel’s theory of epistemology. Daniel states in our reading of his that epistemology is whites being unaware of their whiteness and are “unable to understand the world that they themselves have made”. It seems that Sterling has this idea in his head that whites are superior to any other minority. He believes that white people should only interact with white people, black people should only interact with black people, and so on and so forth. He is stuck on the close-minded idea that this is the only way to live in this world.
In conclusion, Sterling demonstrates many signs of white supremacy and implicit racism. He didn’t think he was doing anything wrong, just simply stating facts. He thought it was normal and acceptable in today’s culture to tell his girlfriend that she is not aloud to be involved with people other than people who are white. He did not see the problem with this so called private conversation. However, as soon as this situation was made known to the public, his apology did not back this state of mind up. He admitted that he made a terrible mistake, and begged for the forgiveness of all who were hurt by his comments. The reactions of NBA players on twitter also played a big role in the influence of other people’s opinions on the controversial topic as well. For example, if someone heard Sterling’s private conversation with his wife before logging onto Twitter, they may agree. However, as soon as they see all the NBA player’s reactions to the conversation and see how hurt and angry they are, that person’s opinion might change. Through all of this mess, one thing was made very clear in the end. Social media plays a big part in shaping people’s opinion on things, especially people of higher power and status.
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