Decency — and Smart Politics! — Require Us to Passionately Denounce Sterling.

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Decency — and Smart Politics! — Require Us to Passionately Denounce Sterling

A lot of us rightfully lament the knee-jerk playing of the race card and the public campaigns, usually driven by the Left, against anybody who says anything that they can interpret as racist. But every once in a while you run into old-fashioned, straight up, unadulterated racism. And in the comments of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, it appears we’ve found it, presuming the tape is authentic and not doctored. Listen to the audio if you wish.

At least for the first few days, the scandal wasn’t a huge issue on the Right, except for a few folks hunting down his old donations to Democrats to argue that he can’t be tied to the GOP, and the Left then high-fiving because he’s a registered Republican.

If you’re not African-American, put yourself in the shoes of an African-American right now. This jerk [insert your preferred stronger term of derision here], banging some multiethnic hottie about a third of his age, is berating her for letting the world know that she associates with African-Americans — in this particular case, former Lakers star Magic Johnson.

In the audio, it’s clear that Sterling’s objection is not that she’s hanging around with a famous Laker (the other team in LA), as I’ve seen some folks interpreting his remarks. There’s nothing about Johnson being a Laker, but there is this:

“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 f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”

Intriguingly, as the conversation progresses, he is convinced that his stance isn’t racist, and that she’s being hurtful by accusing him of being so.

This guy’s got more entitlement issues than the federal government.

I’ve seen some folks lamenting that a private conversation is the trigger for a world of hurt coming down on Sterling. That’s troubling, but something of a side issue at the moment. If you tell your multiethnic girlfriend that you don’t want blacks coming to your team’s basketball games, there’s always the chance that she’ll repeat it or someone will overhear you. We can have side discussions about our Brave New World of ubiquitous personal recording devices or the habits of wealthy elderly men behaving spectacularly unwisely when involved with attractive women a third of their age.

But for now, issue one — and I’ll bet it’s huge in the African-American community — is this racist SOB owning the Clippers and secretly — or perhaps not-so-secretly — disdaining so many of his employees and customers. There’s enormous anger about this. I’ve seen a few righty bloggers grumbling about Obama’s statement on the controversy from Asia, asking, “Who cares about this?” My guess is, a whole lot of people; this is a story that broke on TMZ and is heavily covered by the sports media. The existence of other important news doesn’t mean that this isn’t important news.

Remember Obama beating Romney, 81 percent to 18 percent on the characteristic, “Cares about people like me”? This would be a good time for Republicans to show African-Americans we care. (Actually, it’s always a good time for that.) They’re furious about this. We can probably spare some fury, too, for a guy who’s perfectly happy to take money from African-Americans for tickets, and pay African-Americans to play so they’ll put fans in the arena seats, but draws the line at his girlfriend posting a picture on Instagram with a black man.

And the evidence is mounting that this isn’t such a private matter:

In 2006, Bomani Jones wrote a piece for ESPN.com with the headline, “Sterling’s racism should be news.” At the time, Sterling was sued by the Department of Justice for allegedly refusing to rent apartments in Beverly Hills and Koreatown to black people. He paid $2.73 million to settle that suit in 2009, a lawsuit which quoted Sterling as saying, in sworn testimony mind you, “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” adding, “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.” Behind the scenes, dozens of NBA players, coaches, and executives have alleged racism from Sterling in their interactions with the Clippers owner.

If the Righty world’s primary or loudest response to Sterling is to say, “well, what about Harry Reid’s ‘negro’ comments, huh? Or how about Robert Byrd? You’re all just a bunch of hypocrites!” then some African-Americans may conclude that Republicans are more upset about the hypocrisy of the Left on race than actual racism. They may even be right.

I was discussing this with a few other conservative bloggers and activists and Ali Akbar said I could quote him:

Earlier today I took on one of our own who made the stupid, and ridiculous, comment that Sterling shouldn’t lose his team. 1) They clearly don’t understand how the NBA or any club is organized, 2) They apparently don’t believe in the law, courts, code of conducts, or contracts, 3) they forget that the market argument always allows for context, which in this case includes the NBA and other owners protecting their brand/franchise, 4) they don’t seem to give a damn about anything except pissing off the Left even at the cost of their own intellectually honesty. There are just a few conservatives making the case that Sterling is a victim of the thought-police, but it’s not conservative at all. It’s reactionary traditionalism. It’s instinctual and driven by the gut instead of the brain.

Burn Sterling to the ground. Let the public know that we, a political minority, don’t have any tolerance for his crap. Be he a Democrat donor or a registered Republican or both.

Other takes:

Jonah on public character and private character. One minor point — if your conversation involves other people, i.e., whether your girlfriend can bring African-American friends to the game, then is it really so private?

NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar declares “the whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging. Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking.”

NAACP Los Angeles president Leon Jenkins: “God teaches us to forgive, and the way I look at it, after a sustained period of proof to the African American community that those words don’t reflect his heart, I think there’s room for forgiveness. I wouldn’t be a Christian if I said there wasn’t.”