This story is so rich and layered with so many different subplots to explore, it’s hard to know where to begin. I think I’ll start with the first aspect of the Donald Sterling saga that troubled me. Hypocrisy.
Sterling is being forced to sell the L.A. Clippers because of the comments he made on a taped recording. When the tape was made public by TMZ, everyone piled on. He became public enemy number one (according to a recent poll he’s right ahead of Bernie Madoff as most hated man in America. Really? Madoff stole millions, Sterling paid his players millions…).
But let’s say someone taped the private conversations of NBA players, coaches, GM’s, other owners and members of the media. What would we hear in taped conversations from the locker room, on the court, on the bus to the arena, in the hotel room? Would there be equal embarrassment and shame if those tapes became public? I’ve been in locker rooms. I’ve been on the court. The conversations are often not pretty. The “N” word is dropped all the time.
And what about the rap music that so many athletes listen to? I don’t listen to much of it but I’ve heard enough to know some lyrics make Sterling sound like a boy scout.
I’m not trying to condone the words of Sterling (or ban rap music), but it seems we live in a society where many are just waiting to be offended. And of course we always seem to be offended by the words of others and never our own words.
Jesus talked about hypocrisy during His Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew Chapter 7 He said,
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’: and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
How many of us have planks in our own eyes? Perhaps Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, was the one seeing clearly during all this when he commented that kicking an owner out of the NBA over what he said was a “very slippery slope.” With Sterling as the precedent we’ll see how slippery things get.
Sterling’s words raised a lot of indignation. Many said getting rid of him would make the NBA a better league. Maybe… but perhaps some of that indignation should be directed inwards.
Hyperbole. ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Twitter wrote, “Donald Sterling has the mentality of an antebellum slave master: he makes $ off of Blacks but doesn’t see them as equals deserving of respect.” Now, there are times when on TV or radio you can get caught up in the moment and let something slip that you wish you could take back. The bible councils we should be slow to speak and quick to listen. But Broussard’s comment was on Twitter, meaning he had to take the time to type out those words then press send (or whatever else you press; I don’t tweet). I find it very hard to make the comparison: Donald Sterling and antebellum slave master. Donald Sterling paid his players – black and white – millions of dollars a year. He has afforded each one of them the opportunity to live an opulent lifestyle no antebellum slave owner could ever dream of. Moreover, Sterling didn’t own his players. The players, while signed to a contract, were free to retire, try free agency, get another job, etc. Slave owners actually owned human beings. Big difference.
But Broussard wasn’t comparing an NBA owner to a slave master: he was making a comparison about mentality. So, does not respecting someone or some people make you akin to a slave owner? Does paying an employee millions of dollars mean you disrespect him? Further, if I am disrespected, does that mean I am a slave? If so we’ve got lots of slaves in this country. The bible says we are a slave to whatever controls us. Before we are saved, we’re slaves to sin. Once we accept Christ we are freed from slavery to sin. Broussard is a professing Christian who has courageously spoken out about his faith in the past (see the Jason Collins announcement). But in this instance, I think he could have done a much better job in choosing his words.