Published On: Mon, May 19th, 2014

How We Should Have Reacted To Donald Sterling’s Racist Views

Another day, another racist Donald Sterling sound bite.  We’re in America, the land of free speech, so he’s free to keep on talking. I say, let him, but in the meantime, I’m hitting him where he’ll really feel the pain and you should do the same.

That people with racist views exist should surprise no one.  That these individuals are in positions of power and influence should once again not surprise anyone.  That they might even sign our paychecks and own our housing shouldn’t give you pause.  That people who appear on our television screens say dumb, racially insensitive things isn’t surprising to me.  What should affect you is that we choose to continue to support these individuals once we become aware of their views.

What? You think that you don’t? Oh, but you do.

When Donald Sterling was forced to pay the largest fine in housing history for discriminatory practices in evaluating potential tenants, no one batted an eye.  In fact, there we were, still applying to get into his buildings, putting money in his pocket every single month.  He was sued many times for discrimination, even by his own employees, and there we still

no money for you!

Stop giving Donald Sterling your money!

were, supporting the team.

The racism that we now face occur behind closed doors and sometimes only come to light when a recording is made public or when someone bombs an interview and tells us how they really feel.  The way to affect change when someone offends you is not by immediately starting a picket line or arranging a march.  While they were effective in the Civil Rights era, and they helped to shed light on many of the injustices that people of color often endured, those are not the only options for voicing our displeasure today.  We are in an age when everyone speaks the same universal language – the language of money. These days you affect change by taking money out of the individual’s pocket and wrestling power and control out of their hands and publicly shaming them.

If you think that the NBA commissioner acted so quickly because people were offended, think again.  He moved fast because of two things: Clippers advertisers were dropping like flies almost immediately; and the Clippers players who were in the middle of NBA playoffs were considering a strike.  Both of these things would have affected the NBA organization in a large financial way.  Having millions of dollars yanked out from under their feet in only a few days forced the NBA to take swift and decisive action.

Let’s not forget that the Clippers players and staff were the true victims here.  Doc Rivers made a very valid point in his press conference about the pressure that the players felt to react to the owners’ statements.  There as an immense amount of media scrutiny on the players and what their response would be to what their boss had said on tape, but where this same pressure on Donald Sterling?  What did we expect the players to do, put their contracts and livelihoods in jeopardy by quitting their teams? Some will say yes.  I say no.  They are at work and they performed their jobs.  If your boss made a disparaging remark about you and your coworkers would you immediately go on strike or would you first lodge a complaint with your local Human Resources department or even your manager’s boss?

But, it wasn’t just up to the NBA or the players to react.  It was up to anyone who was offended by Donald Sterling’s words or business dealings to react.  Yes, a swift social media shaming campaign such as a petition helps, but a financial hit by fans of basketball that regularly support the teams would have been even better.  You want to shut a racist owner of an NBA team up? Stop putting money into his pockets.  This is what we all should have done:

  • Stopped watching any games featuring his team.  Viewership affects the rate that sponsors will pay to advertise during a team’s game.  Lower viewership means reduced advertising income for Donald Sterling.
  • Let the NBA know that you would no longer support the team because of the racist views of the owner.  This is where social media comes in handy.  In this instance, Twitter is your friend.
  • In the same vein, let their advertisers know that the comments of the owner offended you and that you would not support any company who supports the team.  This would have set off all sorts of red flags with advertisers if they had received a groundswell of the same complaints over a short period of time.
  • Stopped buying the team’s paraphernalia.  No jerseys, no hats, no key chains.  If it has a Clipper’s logo it shouldn’t be in your possession.
  • Let your favorite players on the team know that you still support the team members, just not the owner.

The fact is, over 80% of all NBA players are people of color.  If Donald Sterling was not fond of people who were not white, he surely picked the wrong business to invest in.  Then again, maybe he got it right since his small time investment is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars and I haven’t seen a mass exodus of people of color leaving the Clipper’s organization.

So, with Donald Sterling continuing to spew more hate and defying the NBA Commissioner’s rulings, I ask, what will you do? The ball is in your court. Do you pass or do you play hardball?

Sandy Smith
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About the Author

- Sandy Smith is the founder of the peer acclaimed personal finance blog, Yes, I Am Cheap where she shares winning strategies for reducing debt. You can find Sandy all around the internet taking about getting you out of debt and helping others establish small businesses. She is also the founder of Colorful Money Magazine.

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Did you know?

African Americans are significantly more likely to have some type of debt (94%) compared with the general population (82%). Credit card debt, student loan debt, and personal loans are all significantly higher in the African American community.

Source: Prudential’s 2013 "African American Financial Experience" study