Amid the outcries over Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling’s heinous comments about African Americans, something is likely to be overlooked. The response to Sterling in both degree and magnitude was different from that of previous instances of racist ignorance — which shows just how much times have changed when it comes to race.
This time, there was no backtracking, no trimming, no apologies or excuses, no veiled support of the “yes-but” variety. Sterling was slammed with the weight of the world.
He is a pariah. National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver has now even taken the unprecedented step of formalizing Sterling’s non-personhood. He can have nothing whatsoever to do with professional basketball. He is through — an old man with a life sentence.
Those condemning Sterling’s racist remarks have harkened back to Los Angeles Dodgers Vice President Al Campanis, CBS football analyst Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder and Cincinnati Reds Chief Executive Officer Marge Schott as Sterling forebears. All three voiced similarly silly sentiments.
In 1987, on the 40th anniversary no less of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut, Campanis told a Nightline audience that the reason there weren’t more black managers is that they lacked what he called the “necessities.” He added that there were no great black swimmers either — because blacks lacked “buoyancy.”