Bill Simmons and the Crowdsourcing Crusade Against Racist Donald Sterling

The 2010 New Yorker Festival: In Conversation With Malcolm Gladwell

If you have not seen it, TMZ reported late Friday night that Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, was caught on audio tape making racist comments against black people and specifically, Magic Johnson.

Sterling was arguing with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, who just happens to be black and Mexican, about a picture she put up on Instagram with her and Magic Johnson.

The following are select excerpts from the audio that TMZ pulled:

“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.”

“…Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me.  And don’t bring him to my games.”

It is another in a long line of racist comments rarely kept secret by Sterling as Deadspin and others show:

And it has not been just in the public world that this behavior has been noticed.

In 2009, Elgin Baylor, the Clippers general manager from 1986 to 2008 filed a lawsuit against him for age and racial discrimination.  One comment Baylor spoke of in the suit was that Sterling wanted to have a team of “poor black boys from the South…playing for a white coach.”

Many have come out against Sterling and offered suggestions.  One of the more radical ones has come from ESPN commentator, Keith Olbermann:

“Time for Clippers players to step up. Refuse to play till NBA moves against this racist jackass Sterling. NBA can’t defend him.”

Many, including writer J.A. Adande see this as not possible:

Of course, Adande seems to forget that trades and the draft still exist.

Still, the focal point of the rant has put his name to boycotting Clippers games:

The problem with some of that is that star coaches and players like Paul and Rivers have choices, and still allow themselves to fall under the same umbrella as this owner.

In turn, it continues to be hard to blame the workers.  There are only a certain amount of jobs in the NBA and moral stands tend to hurt mostly those that are replaceable.

So who needs to make a move? Those that can.  That starts with the other NBA owners and the new Commissioner, Adam Silver.

But even that that’s to be an issue.

Every sport is afraid of losing their antitrust exceptions, so rightfully, some might be against this.  But there is still an obligation to seek out all measures to stop this person from continuing to exist scot-free.

ESPN’s Marc Stein believes that owners could put pressure on Sterling to retire, and push a succession plan into effect, giving the team to his son-in-law.

“But the wait for that day has undeniably reached the unbearable stage. If the NBA can’t legally force him out, surely it can muster enough internal momentum…Late, even way late, is not the same as too late. Not when it comes to Sterling.”

The NBA will need more than its own push to get this done.  It will need a massive supporting hand from the public.

Enter Bill Simmons.



As someone who has always recognized the power he holds at the Worldwide Leader, it is a welcome move to see someone with so many platforms to speak from use it for good.

National TV, Facebook, Twitter, and many other social platforms are available to him and he is crowdsourcing today to see what exactly can be done to finally go after Donald Sterling in a meaningful way.

Whether it is boycotting, or writing about it, or making people aware of it, the most important thing is keeping this discussion on the forefront.  This is not nearly the first time Sterling has done this and each time before this, he has been able to sweep his racist and discriminatory ways under the rug.

We have a very short attention span here in America, but it is things like this that cannot be forgotten.  “Internet muscle” rarely has stamina.  But when people like Simmons look for ways to keep this out and in the open, it is the only way we can truly make change.  The only way to rid the world of evils such as racism is to continue exercising the actual muscle to combat it.  In the age we live in, viral paths are needed to expand, intertwine, and take hold.

Perhaps being on the forefront here with his idea of crowdsourcing, Bill Simmons will use his considerable ESPN power to make good for a sport he, and many others, love.


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