In The News
Los Angeles—Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is in the hot seat after allegedly making racist comments. In a recording, which hasn’t been verified, Sterling reportedly tells his girlfriend not to post pictures of herself with black people or bring them to basketball games. When she reminds him most of his players are African-American, he said, “I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses.”
Sterling didn’t attend Sunday night’s playoff game and hasn’t commented on the accusation. But Clippers President Andy Roeser said the owner is “emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with nor does it reflect his views, beliefs, or feelings.”
Some people are skeptical of that because of previous evidence of racism by Sterling, an 80-year-old billionaire who’s owned the Clippers since 1981. The NBA has never forced an owner to give up a team. But pressure is on new NBA commissioner Adam Silver to take swift action.
Clippers players staged a silent protest Sunday night, turning their warm-up jerseys inside out to hide the team logo. Coach Doc Rivers said his players want to stay focused on basketball, following the team’s best regular season ever. “Our message is that we’re going to let no one and nothing stop us from what we want to do,” Rivers said.
Many current and former NBA greats are speaking out about the incident. Michael Jordan said, “There is no room in the NBA—or anywhere else—for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed.” Charles Barkley said, “We cannot have an NBA owner discriminating against the league. We’re a black league.” About 70 percent of NBA players are African-American.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, while calling Sterling’s comments “abhorrent,” also urged caution, saying that kicking out an owner is “a very, very slippery slope.”
Several sponsors have already cut ties with the Clippers. The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP also decided not to give Sterling a second lifetime achievement award later this year.
Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke wrote, “It seems like most folks in town are actually cheering against [the Clippers]…because, down deep, nobody can stomach the idea of a successful Donald Sterling.” He added, “They will never be fully respected in Los Angeles because of their owner.”
Sources: abcnews.go.com, cnn.com, latimes.com, foxnews.com, espn.com
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Discussion Questions for Student Small Groups
What’s your reaction to this fast-moving controversy? Why do you think it grabbed headlines and caused a backlash so quickly? What action do you expect the NBA to take against Sterling, and why?
Do you think Sterling is being treated fairly—or should that even be a concern? Explain. If the allegations are proven true, does he deserve to lose his team? If he’s pressured to sell it and makes lots of money, can that even be considered a consequence? Why or why not?
What precedent might this case set for other areas of society? Where do you witness racism or discrimination, and how does it make you feel?
When someone makes a racist comment, does that automatically mean they’re a racist person? Why or why not? How many chances should someone get to prove their true character?
If you were a Clippers player, how would you handle this controversy—especially during a playoff run? How can someone stay focused on the task at hand when major outside distractions are present?
Are Clippers players obligated to respect Sterling as their boss, even if he said demeaning things? Why or why not? Professional athletes are often paid millions of dollars; should they be expected to just put up with some harassment—whether from owners, coaches, or fans? Explain.
If you were a Clippers fan, would you continue to support the players despite their questionable owner? Why or why not?
Have you ever lost respect for someone because of how they talked about other people or other groups of people? If so, did you speak up about it? cut ties to that relationship? other?
Who should set the standards for a society to follow? Why does it seem so difficult for people to treat one another with basic human dignity?
Scripture links: Luke 6:27-36; Acts 10:34; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:8-14, 25; 1 Peter 2:18-21; and 1 John 2:9-11.