Facing the NBA’s “firing squad” June 3, Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling has little chance of clemency to retain his NBA franchise after telling his lady-friend V. Stiviano in a secret recording that went public on TMZ Sports April 26 not to associate or bring blacks to Clippers games. Whether recorded secretly or not, Sterling’s hateful words carved the NBA up with a machete, prompting NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to ban him for life April 29. Sterling’s racist remarks prompted a nationwide dialogue about race, reaffirming that such backward comments couldn’t be tolerated in the NBA or elsewhere. Now faced with a vote June 3 by 29 owners to force Sterling to sell his NBA franchise, Dallas Mavericks’ 55-year-old controversial owner Mark Cuban got into the act, chiming in on race and prejudice. Cuban fended off criticism for remarks made May 21 at a business conference.
Giving a video-taped interview on GrowCo convention hosted by Inc. Magazine Thursday, Cuban admitted, like all folks, to having his own prejudice. “If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street . . .” said Cuban, eliciting howls from the politically correct blogosphere, stepping into the thorny issue that played out in the courts in the Trayvon Martin case. Sixteen-year-old high school student Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie when gunned down Feb. 26, 2012 by 29-year old neighborhood watch commander 28-year-old George Zimmerman. Martin’s killing prompted President Barack Obama to comment “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” Cuban’s remarks about a “hoodie” struck a raw nerve prompting accusations of bigotry. Back-peddling on his remark, Cuban elaborated about having equal discomfort with a white skinhead.
However many fingers point toward Cuban, he was simply making a point that it’s healthy for honest people to examine their own prejudices. Making the “hoodie” reference showed Cuban’s indelicate side, showing a kind of tone-deafness to current controversies. Nothing Cuban said rose to the level of Sterling’s inexcusable advice to his lady-friend V. Stiviano about not associating or bringing blacks to Clippers games. When you really examine Sterling’s words, it’s clear that she egged him on to express regrettable things out of jealousy, reflecting his odd relationship with Stiviano. Whatever the reasons for Sterling’s remarks, it’s clear he damaged the NBA brand and disgraced professional basketball, especially knowing that it’s an African-American dominated sport on the cutting edge, as Silver likes to point out, on promoting diversity in professional sports.
Cuban’s inelegant attempt to put the “bigotry” discussion in personal terms doesn’t warrant the kind of disdain heaped on Sterling. Cuban will be forced to vote yay-or-nay to terminate Sterling’s NBA franchise June 3. At least 75% or 23 of the NBA’s 29 owner are expected to give Sterling the boot. Under pressure from the NBA Players Association, the league can’t tolerate such outward expressions of racism by an owner of an NBA franchise. Sterling asked for “forgiveness” May 12 in an awkward interview conducted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, while, simultaneously, going after Magic Johnson for his sexual indiscretions that got him HIV. Whether admitted to or not by Cooper, Sterling’s not playing with a full deck, self-destructing by the minute in the hour-long interview. Cuban’s comments were designed to open up a wider discussion of stereotypes and prejudice.
Going after Cuban shows today’s intolerance of anything racial, no matter how innocently discussed. “The point was that before we can help others deal with racism we have to be honest about ourselves,” Cuban tweeted, trying to explain his videotaped interview with GrowCo. When you consider Sterling’s private comments made public by Stiviano, there’s nothing illegal about his remarks, only offensive, disgraceful and classless. When the NBA’s board of governor’s meet to decide Sterling’s fate, they’ll take into consideration damage done to the NBA brand. Sterling hired experienced Los Angeles litigator Maxwell Blecher to argue that the NBA didn’t give him due process. Whether that’s true or not, Sterling’s franchise agreement permits the NBA to arbitrate all disputes, including Silver’s April 29 lifetime ban for uttering such offensive racist remarks to his 31-year-old lady-friend.
Trying to trap Cuban into something controversial, the media needs to take a deep breath before going after another NBA owner intending to vote to oust Sterling. Cuban’s remarks hit a raw nerve alluding to the Trayvon Martin case, where Zimmerman was acquitted under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law,” stretching the notion of self-defense to the breaking point. Whether or not Trayvon and George rolled around on the ground, Zimmerman shouldn’t have shot him dead, simply because he possessed a firearm. National Rife Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre argued in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case to issue more concealed weapons permits around the country. Cuban’s only mistake was using a tragic story to illustrate how stereotypes and prejudice affect one’s perception of race. Sterling’s not losing his NBA franchise because he’s a racist but because he damaged the NBA brand.