John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Donald Sterling and Lost Souls

Posted on April 29, 2014
Basketball
You really can’t make this stuff up.

Donald Sterling, whose actual name is Donald Tokowitz, has been married to the same woman, Rochelle Stein, since 1957.

Tokowitz, who says he changed his name to Sterling because he thought it sounded more prosperous, probably actually changed his name because he wanted to avoid persecution as a Jew.

That wasn’t that unusual when Tokowitz grew up in Chicago in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  Anti-semitism wasn’t just a thing that happened in Europe during that period.

Had Tokowitz, or Sterling, as he is now known, stuck with his wife, he probably would have been fine these days.

But he didn’t.  He had affairs, probably a bunch of affairs, including with one young lady who recorded a conversation that will go down in infamy.

Sterling, as we all know, owns a professional basketball team that has lately been pretty competitive.   It has been competitive because it has some pretty good ball players and a really good coach, most of whom happen to be African-American.

You can’t really escape the fact that the vast majority of really good professional baskeball players happen to be African-American.

Sterling made his money in real estate, and one of the ways that he tried to make more money out of real estate was to refuse to rent to African-Americans.

That happens to be illegal, but to Sterling, who is a lawyer by training, that law seemed to be a technicality that he worked to avoid.

Sterling thought that discriminating against black people was good for his bottom line when it came real estate, but bad for his bottom line when it came to his basketball team.

This kind of situational racism can be confusing for an old guy like Sterling, a man who changed his name to avoid situational racism when he was younger.

Sterling asked his mistress if she could avoid hanging out with black people, which he found to be embarrassing, when she came to the Clippers games.  Digest that for a moment.

Sterling asked his mistress, who seems to be about 20 years old and who happens to be both  black and Hispanic, to stop bringing black people to professional basketball games that are primarily won or lost by black basketball players.

Spike Lee said that Sterling has a mentality of slave master, which is the smartest thing that Spike Lee has said in a long time.

The problem with the NBA is that the racial disparity between the owners and the players is overwhelmingly stark.

Never has a professional sport had so many players of one race and so many owners of another.

And that racial disparity was bound to cause some tension at some point and time.

That Donald Sterling’s comments would spark such outrage in unsurprising, although I get mighty uncomfortable sanctioning somebody for something they said in a private conversation.

I feel bad for those guys who play on the Clippers.  They finally have a pretty good team, but they must feel more than a little ambivalent about advancing in the playoffs if that would somehow profit the owner.

But they should make it their mission to win for themselves, and not for the jerk who signs their paychecks.

Had Sterling made those comments in a post-game press conference, I would be all for throwing him out of the league.

I am all for the free market punishing him in a way that might force him to give up the team.  So, if I did business with the Clippers in any way, shape or form, I would stop doing business with them until Sterling stepped down.

That Sterling has finally been revealed as a jerk seems to be unsurprising to those who knew him the best.

In my life, I have met a lot of jerks.  Egomaniacs.  Narcissists.  Assholes.  Most of the biggest jerks usually have a lot of money and think they can use that money to get whatever they want out of life.  What they usually find is that money can’t buy them happiness and that revelation makes them even bigger jerks.

That seems to be what Sterling was trying to find, happiness through the accumulation of things.   And that made in him into a philanderer, a shark, a buffoon, and a racist.

The income gap in America hasn’t caused as much resentment towards the rich as you might think.  Most Americans would still rather be rich than poor.  Most Americans remain fascinated with the lifestyles of the celebrity class.   Plenty of people play the lottery everyday, in the hopes that they too can join the top crust.

But as a society, we should reevaluate our own values and the moral foundation of wealth, especially in the light of Mr. Sterling and his ilk.

As the question is posed in Matthew, “What good does it do a man to gain the world but in the process, lose his soul?”

Ask Donald Sterling.  He seems to have lost his.