Quite possibly the worst owner of a sports franchise that ever existed and if that isn’t enough, just for good measure, he’s also a racist.
We’ll get to that part in a minute.
Donald Sterling (originally Donald Tokowitz) was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1934. Shortly afterwards his family relocated to Los Angeles, California where he eventually earned his law degree and specialized in divorce and personal injury cases. He soon branched out into real estate where he acquired enough money to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA for 12.5 million dollars in 1981.
And things have been pretty shitty ever since.
During Sterling’s stewardship and in a regular season that lasts 82 games, the Clippers have managed to lose 50 or more games a season 22 times, 60 or more games another eight times and 70 games once. During that time, only two coaches lasted more than four years and both of them wound up suing the team (and winning) for breaching their contracts. To put it bluntly, the LA Clippers were widely considered to be the laughingstock of the NBA. It wasn’t until recent years that the team seemed to turn the corner and actually turned itself around and started winning enough games to make the playoffs.
And then all hell broke loose.
It seems that even though Mr. Sterling is married to a woman approximately his own age he was often seen in the company of a woman half his age. In a recording of one of their conversations back in September of 2013 that was recently released, Sterling seems to be commenting on a photograph of the woman with ex Lakers star Magic Johnson that she had posted to Instagram. Here’s what he had to say.
”It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people" and ""You can sleep with black people. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want", but "the little I ask you is ... not to bring them to my games."
Are you fuckin’ kidding me? Magic Johnson? One of the most well liked, talented and respected players to ever the play the game of basketball? The same guy who tested positive for HIV back in 1991 and vowed that he would spend the rest of his life "battling this deadly disease”?
A few days later another tape was released and it only gets worse.
Sterling: “Don't bring black people, and don't come"
Woman: "Do you know that you have a whole team that's black, that plays for you?”
Sterling: I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have — Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game?
Of course, these types of conversations encouraged others to do a little more digging about Mr. Sterling’s background. They didn’t have to dig very far.
In 2006 Sterling was sued for using race as a factor when trying to fill some of his apartment buildings. He refused to rent to blacks in the upscale neighborhood of Beverly Hills and once claimed that “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
Not be outdone, here’s his take on renting to the large Latino population in Los Angeles, “they "smoke, drink and just hang around the building.”
For those little escapades, he wound up paying approximately 7.5 million dollars in fines and court costs and he still wasn’t done.
In 2009 a former employee and legendary Lakers great Elgin Baylor took Sterling to court on the basis of employment discrimination for his comments on age and race. Baylor alleged that Sterling wanted to ”poor black boys from the South and a white head coach.” and that during contract negotiations with one Danny Manning claimed that he said "I'm offering a lot of money for a poor black kid.” I think that case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
On April 29, 2014 the commissioner of the league dropped the hammer on Sterling. He was subsequently banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million dollars. In addition, a consortium of owners are getting together to try and force him to sell the team. Forbes magazine estimates that the team that he purchased in 1981 for 12.5 million dollars is now worth something north of 575 million.
If that happens, it’s a goddamn shame for that kind of a person to make that large of a profit by being that much of an asshole.
It also seems a damn shame that the NBA, a league that is made up of about 80% black players, hadn’t called him on the carpet sooner since they knew about his conduct much earlier on.
In the category of you just can’t make this kind of shit up, Sterling was also scheduled to receive a lifetime achievement award by none other than the NAACP for his monetary donations to the group over the years.
That award has been rescinded.