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Hypocrisy and Donald Sterling

On April 29, NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life, fined him $2.5 million (the maximum allowed by the NBA constitution), and announced that he would force Sterling to sell the team. The NAACP had planned to give Sterling a lifetime achievement award at its 100th Anniversary celebration and then canceled it. It had already given him a 2009 lifetime achievement award. The hypocrisy here is worth cataloging.

Here are the quotes 80-year-old Sterling made to his 31-year-old half-black mistress (V. Stiviano) that triggered these punishments. “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to? You can sleep with (black people). 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. I’m just saying, in your lousy … Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”

In 2009, he was made to pay the largest discrimination fine ever, $2.7 million, based on his attempts to evict blacks and Hispanics from his rental properties. Apparently, this didn’t attract the attention of the NBA and NAACP.

It is unclear whether Sterling’s comments show him to be a racist. Racists (for example, members of Aryan Brotherhood) do not have black girlfriends whom they openly squire around. It is a common and legitimate defense against a charge of racism or anti-Semitism that the alleged racist or anti-Semite’s close friend is black or Jewish. Sterling isn’t granted this defense, although I don’t know why.

Even the ridiculous exhortations from black celebrities (for example, Sister Souljah) for black men to avoid dating white women generate little to no criticism, whereas Sterling is skewered for a few rude comments made after repeated promptings in private to a mistress.

At the NAACP award ceremony scheduled to celebrate Sterling, the NAACP had scheduled to give Rev. Al Sharpton “Person of the Year” honors. Sharpton was at the center of several Jew-baiting incidents. In 1991, a car driven by a Hasidic Jew struck and killed a 7-year-old black child. Sharpton rushed forward to help whip the crowd into a frenzy. An example of his Jew-baiting comments included the following, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” The “Crown Height” riots then broke out and a rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, was stabbed to death and over a hundred others were injured.

In 1995 in Harlem, a Jewish store owner (who owned Freddy’s Fashion Mart) was alleged to have driven a black store owner out of business (Side note: he didn’t do so). Reverend Al held rallies to scare away the Jewish owner. He made comments such as “(W)e will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.” Three months later one of the protesters stormed Freddy’s, ordered all blacks out, and fired a pistol and burned the place down. Eight people died.

No one can reasonably judge Sterling’s comments worse than Sharpton’s. If the NAACP was to French kiss a notorious Jew-hater, that’s its business. But it speaks volumes for the NBA to hammer Sterling when it allows its players to associate with the NAACP and for NAACP leaders to be welcome at games.

A fun fact is that the head of the Los Angeles NAACP when it decided to celebrate Sterling and Sharpton was Leon Jenkins. He was a judge in Detroit until the Michigan Supreme Court removed him for routine-and-systematic corruption. Again, no end to the criticism of Sterling, but putting a judge who sold his office in charge of a prominent NAACP chapter generates nary a word of criticism.

The New York Daily News reported that Clippers player Chris Paul demanded to have a black coach. Being their star player, his demand carried real weight. How is this better than discriminatory social requests? I don’t have a problem with Paul’s racial preferences and neither should you. People like different things. Why the different reaction to Paul’s and Sterling’s preferences?

While playing in the NBA, Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd was convicted of domestic violence. This did not disqualify him from coaching in the NBA. Is domestic violence worse than racist statements? The NBA has not banned Allen Iverson who was a one-man crime machine, once searching for his wife brandishing a gun. He also had a number of assault charges pressed against him. Ron Artest locked his wife up and also was convicted Michael-Vick-style for animal negligence. One of my favorite players, Charles Barkley, was twice arrested for assault while a player. In these cases, the sensitivity police were not offended. Why?

The most upsetting hypocrisy involves President Obama. Obama’s Justice Department recently announced that it will grant clemency to thousands of prisoners, most of whom are serving drug sentences. A large number of them are black or Hispanic. Why didn’t Obama do this years ago? Politics.

That’s right, he let thousands of black men rot in cages for an extra 6 years and be subject to the brutal prison system so he could get elected again and didn’t endanger Congressional Democrats. Anyone not on crack has to admit that this shows less respect for black men than Sterling’s comments.

The people outraged over Sterling’s comments are oversensitive babies and hypocrites. These are not the worst flaws one can have, but they do signal a lack of integrity.

Stephen Kershnar is a philosophy professor at Fredonia State University. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com