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LEON: The Reaction to Donald Sterling, Double Standards Amid a Racial Hierarchy

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III | 4/30/2014, 3 p.m.
Donald Sterling (Courtesy of tmz.com)

“When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything; you just let them talk…" President Obama, April 27, 2014

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has spoken and he has said a mouthful. Once again, the never-healing scab of bigotry and racism that permeates American society and culture has been pulled away and it is stinging. So much so that President Obama was forced to address this issue while attending a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was forced to honestly admit, "The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that's still there, the vestiges of discrimination…"

As I have listened to the various pundits, analysts, commentators, and sports icons discuss this issue and express their outrage at Donald Sterling’s comments I thought I would try to connect a few other dots that have been missing from the discussion.

First, if ABC/ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy can say (and rightfully so) in response to Sterling, “The only action that would be wrong is inaction or neutrality… There are some things that are bigger than pursuing a championship... Making a stand on something that impacts society is even more important…” then there should be the same level of outrage directed toward Washington football franchise owner Daniel Snider. By continuing to use a racial epithet and image as the symbols of his football team, Daniel Snyder’s public insults of Native American’s are just as/if not more vile and offensive as Donald Sterling’s private bigoted conversations with his girlfriend.

Why should the reaction, pressure, and suggested course of action being directed at Sterling be more than that directed at Snyder? If there’s a clarion call for Sterling to be relieved of his operational duties and forced to sell his team, why not direct the same ire and hold Snyder and the NFL to the same standard? The lack of a collective outrage towards Snyder when compared to what is being directed toward Sterling makes me wonder if there’s a racial hierarchy of outrage in this country. Insults are insults and bigots are bigots.

During pre-game warm-ups for Game 4 with Golden State, Clippers players wore their red T-shirts inside out to obscure the team logo then piled them in the middle of the court. This was a nice gesture of solidarity but it was a statement not a stand. The stand would have been for the players to boycott the game.

Some such as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Herman Edward’s have stated that the players should not have boycotted the game. They invoked the name of the great Jackie Robinson saying that he came to work every day and played in the face of horrific bigotry. That is true but don’t get it twisted, Jackie Robinson’s showing up to play was the stand. He played so others could.

Watching the Clipper’s players engage in silent protest against their teams’ owner made me wonder, how many of those players who protested before the game would then go into the tunnel or locker room after the game and refer to each other as n----r or some derivation of such?