There are some mistakes you can make to show that you’re old-fashioned, and there are other mistakes that might cost your organization a hundred million dollars. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was recorded on the phone telling his girlfriend to not associate with Black people, at least not in public. This was one of those expensive mistakes.
According to TMZ, the owner feels that being around Black people deflates the value of your brand.
“Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo… broadcast that you’re associating with Black people,” he said to his girlfriend.
The owner said that he doesn’t hate minorities, and that his girlfriend can do what she wants with them in public. But he then says on audio that he doesn’t want his girlfriend to publicize her friendships with them.
The statements came after the woman posed on Instagram in a picture with Magic Johnson.
Here are a few more jewels from Mr. Sterling’s conversation:
– “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*cking 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’s interesting that Sterling’s remarks were revealed the day after someone sent me a video with the rapper Chamillionaire stating that Michael Jordan told him that he doesn’t take pictures with Black people. I won’t talk much about Jordan (his actions speak louder than words – he has hardly done a thing for Black people except take our money), but what I’ll say is that there are quite a few people in corporate America who see the Black community as “Financial mistresses” – They expect the mistress to give them everything, but don’t feel compelled to give anything back.
Part of the reason that a man gets away with exploiting a mistress is low self-esteem. She may not expect anything in return for her “services,” and is Ok with being a second-class citizen. African Americans are the most prolific consumers in America, spending our money down to the final penny: We have saved entire corporations from economic disaster, kept the Oprah Winfrey Network from going under, and single-handedly taught Nike how to sell the same damn shoe every year to people who can barely pay their rent.
But while we are fiercely loyal at giving our money away (much to our demise), we are not entirely savvy about expecting something in return. I get tremendous pushback when I argue that those who’ve earned millions from the Black community (i.e. millionaire hip-hop artists or major corporations) should be expected to give something back. I posit that low self-esteem makes many of us content with being financial mistresses. A man will take everything from his mistress, and even appreciate her presence. But he doesn’t want to be seen in public with her and always considers her to be secondary to the people he really loves the most.
The bottom line is this: Sterling must be made to pay for his feelings toward African Americans. No conscientious person should watch a Clippers game or attend one. Of course we also shouldn’t purchase any Clippers jerseys or other products, for every dollar spent is putting a dollar into the hands of a man who doesn’t respect us. Even if the ownership structure changes, our attitudes should not change. If Sterling feels that the African American “brand” deflates his own, then we should show him what a deflated brand really looks like.
Also, I’m curious to see how the NBA itself responds to these revelations. African American athletes contribute billions to the NBA and NCAA through their talent and labor, and it would be nothing short of revolutionary to have a prominent athlete use his platform to speak on this issue. Small moments of strength are what have historically transformed America into a better nation over time. This is NOT the time to be silent.
Finally, we must realize that Sterling just happened to be the guy who was caught on tape saying what quite a few organizational heads are saying behind closed doors. He is not alone in his bigotry and I’m sure he’s made these remarks around many of his friends, and his friends either overlooked his comments or nodded their heads in agreement. This is how money is used to purchase our integrity, and this is what makes us weak.
Black people are still in a battle for our humanity. There are many people in America who still see us as running, jumping, rapping, apes who are better off in a prison cell. There’s really no way around this reality.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and author of the book, “Black American Money.”