NFL should learn from Donald Sterling situation


As NFL franchises continue to acquire more and more value, the pool of potential owners continues to shrink.  But just because someone has earned the money to buy an NFL team, it doesn’t mean they’ve earned the privilege.

That’s an important point for the NFL to keep in mind regarding the inexplicably bizarre and embarrassing controversy currently roaring through the NBA, where L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling allegedly was caught on tape making racist comments to his girlfriend.

While it remains impossible to open a window into a person’s soul to see whether the poison of racism resides there, it is possible to screen those whose words and actions suggest that they harbor such beliefs.

Donald Sterling’s words and actions suggest that he does.  And the evidence existed long before TMZ published its tape of his voice.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Sterling agreed in 2009 to a $2.765 million settlement of charges that he discriminated against African-Americans and others at an apartment building he owned.  The Times also reports that a lawsuit filed in 2003 accused Sterling of saying “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” and that “black tenants smell and attract vermin.”  The case was resolved with a confidential settlement, but Sterling reportedly paid $5 million in legal fees to the plaintiffs.

Amazingly, those claims and the settlements of those claims generated little or no publicity or scorn of Sterling.  If an NFL owner were accused of such conduct, the mere allegations would become major national news.  If an NFL owner ever settled a case involving such allegations, the league office undoubtedly would be forced to take decisive action or face strong contentions of the existence of a double standard.

It’s all the more reason for the NFL to treat this occasion as the catalyst for ensuring that its house — specifically, its 32 houses — are in order.  Existing owners should be warned clearly about the potential consequences of such conduct.  Potential owners should be screened even more carefully to determine that they have done or said nothing that would suggest that their hearts are rotten with racism or other qualities that could result in their wealth and power being used to violate the rights of others.

Per a league source, NFL owners already expect Commissioner Roger Goodell to address the situation in some way at the next ownership meetings in May.

It’s often impossible to get to the truth of a person’s attitudes regarding matters of race.  But the Sterling situation underscores the importance of taking all reasonably available steps to ensure that the country’s biggest sports business is doing business with people who have not only the wealth to assume such an important responsibility, but also the character.

57 responses to “NFL should learn from Donald Sterling situation

  1. Existing owners should be warned clearly about the potential consequences of such conduct.

    Warn them about what, getting caught as a racist? If an existing owner is a racist warning them is a pretty silly exercise. If you mean to say lets cover it up then a warning may do some good.

    And who’s going to judge the character of possible new owners, you? Dan “Redskin” Synder?

  2. Well, given that not a single owner of any team in any of the four major US sports has seen fit to put out even the most generic say-nothing statement – not even the ones who crave the spotlight like a drug – I am not holding out that they will learn anything at all.

  3. Nah, everything is peachy keen with the NFL as you’ve stated and Mark Cuban is just a dope with zero business sense, less intelligence than you, and didn’t ya know, witness the building up and collapse of the tech bubble in the early 2000s. How about another wacky draft scenario about the Texans from your newly christened “expert” Pancakes McClain? Lord knows we haven’t enough, zero aspect of the NFL could ever be over saturated.

  4. No professional sports league – or any other business entity for that matter – can tolerate the costs, both monetary and in terms of brand damage, of allowing a clear-cut racist to be in a leadership position.

    No matter what the NBA does or doesn’t do, Sterling’s tenure as owner is over. It’s just a matter of how long it takes for it to formally end. He has alienated a huge portion of both his employees and his customer base. Advertisers and sponsors will stay away, as will free agents and trade prospects. And for those who he might lure to the Clippers, he’s going to have to pay a lot more to get them – the Donald Sterling tax – because now people hate him. Even if the NBA did nothing, the marketplace will ensure that Sterling won’t be able to run the team for very long. And all of this makes the NBA look weak, its entire brand looking worse, and their shared profits weaker.

    It only takes one racist jerk to hurt a lot of people – not just in the heart but also in the wallet. Goodell needs to make sure there are no crusty old Steeling types in his midst.

  5. Yet…Donald Stirling’s gold-digging girlfriend is of both black and Hispanic descent. Hmmmm…

    Some people in this world provide a very laudable example of how to carry one’s self with dignity and respect, while other people provide us with a very clear example of how NOT to act. Both are necessary for the rest of us to learn from…so thanks for being a complete moron Donald.

  6. But the NFL has made NO attempt to keep this a game full of clean and respectable owners. They don’t care that much and they aren’t going to put forth much effort into something like this. This league can’t even get the rulebook or replay and officiating systems taken care of, and they sure aren’t going to make it a priority to help or ensure that these houses are in order the way you would like for it to be.

    Obviously there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this news story, and anybody in the world in any position could learn something from what we all experienced with this public revelation of racism being rampant in the mind of this very rich and powerful person. But to have faith in the NFL to be on top of things fully and adequately is a way too risky to bank on. They will let you down if you believe in them. They can’t be counted on to do the right thing based on their track record in so many areas they come up short in and fail, such as protecting the physical health of the brains of their employees hence the billion dollar suit. Heck they can’t even figure out how to compensate the female gender that supports their league either. Now you expect the NFL to be on top of racism too?

    They aren’t responsible or thoughtful enough to handle all of this. It’s way over their heads and they don’t care about big issues like this, they only listen and pretend.

  7. It would shock me if Rodger actually does something other than repeat a few cliches and such. The 32 owners do not pay him to threaten them as a whole in any way, shape or form.

  8. Should we require the same standard for players? Media? Fans? Should you require a passing grade on all tolerance and sensitivity to enter the arena? I am not a fan of the generalizations represented in this post. However, I also don’t know my favorite team’s owners’ stance on every social issue. We all judge and have made statements we probably would like to revoke, whether we believe them or not. But if we hold up this ideal that any industry should operate in such a pristine vacuum, our arenas will empty in short order.

  9. We’ll the owners in Cleveland and. Minnesota are such reputable guys as well … They still own the teams right? As if Roger Starbucks would do anything if an NFL owner said this… Please

  10. I am still puzzled why Doc Rivers left the Celtics to go work for this guy. Granted the Celtics are in a rebuild and not everybody wants to go through that but Sterlings history is well known. What kind of message does Doc send by working for this guy.

  11. …have you ever said anything controversial or politically incorrect in the privacy of your own home? How would you like it if someone was secretly recording you and then turned the tape over to your job to get you fired ?

  12. The pot calling the kettle Black and doesn’t want anyone to know he’s dating both groups that he hates, how ironic. We all need to grow up because there’s good and bad and ugly people in all walks of life. So much wasted energy put in hatred.

  13. I realize that this may not sit well, but Donald Sterling may be guilty of stupidity, but saying what he said is not a crime.

    We have gotten to the point in this nation where any stupid faux pas automatically disqualifies someone from something.

    People have the right to not go to the games and support him. But I just don’t think the NBA or the NFL has the right to try and strip a team from an owner because he is stupid or makes racially insensitive remarks.

    As much as I hate Jimmy Irsay, I feel the same way about him as well. People have a right to be stupid. It is time we stopped being so politically correct about everything everyone says.

  14. Yes, everybody says things that they wouldn’t want taped and reported. However – and this is a pretty simple concept – NOT everybody feels and expresses disdain for an entire ethnic group. For those of you who sympathize with “poor Donald,” please understand that his words aren’t just a slip of the tongue that anybody can make. They reveal an open and widespread contempt for a huge group of people that include most of his employees, many of his customers, some of his business partners and even his own mistress. It also reveals a person who is completely two-faced. So for anyone who is feeling sorry for him or sympathetic to the situation he put himself in, please understand that decent and normal people don’t think like him. And if this is the way you think and talk when you think no one is listening, you should rethink your viewpoint.

  15. Free speech? This was a great example.
    Then we see free reaction.
    Sterling can say whatever hateful crap he wants and hate everybody.
    People can respond by not buying what he’s selling. He is as much of a lowlife as can exist and still breathe air.

  16. Whatever anyone says in “private” should not be held against them. We are all guilty of saying or doing something unsavory in “private moments.”
    Private means, you know, private.

  17. Sadly, the main lesson likely learned here is that owners will be more careful with what they say for fear their statements are being recorded.

  18. As punishment Donald Sterling must sell the Clippers franchise for hundreds of millions of dollars. That’ll show him for having opinions about other people.

  19. @commonsensedude – I agree with you and I have no sympathy for this rich guy. And the NFL can certainly screen out rich idiots. But once he owns the team, there is little they can do or should do about his stupid comments. He didn’t get a DUI like Irsay. He is guilty of what many people are guilty of when they think that they are not being heard.

  20. Make the owners sign Reps and Warranties that they won’t do “stupid things” that devalue the brand and hold amounts in Escrow in case it happens.

  21. @ jacobslatter, don’t get it confused, forcing him to sell the Clippers would be a huge punishment . There are so many multiple millionaires in this country and world it’s insane, but only a handful of people have the power and prestige that comes with owning a pro sports franchise .

  22. “But I just don’t think the NBA or the NFL has the right to try and strip a team from an owner because he is stupid or makes racially insensitive remarks.”

    I thought about this, but this view is wrong. Sure, he owns the clippers, but he’s also part of a league and therefore does not represent just himself. He is an employer and therefore his views and conduct ARE the business of the NBA. They do, or should, have the right to decide who the people that represent their 30 teams are. In the NFL, owners must approve a new owner. This is simply an extension of something like that. If they get to choose the owners before they buy, why can’t they force one out for poorly representing the league? I don’t think much will happen because rich people are spineless, as are most Americans who simply care about getting their sports fix. These rich sports team owners understand that they can get away with so much because no one will truly boycott them in any way that will hurt their pockets. It’s sad. He shouldn’t be banned from stepping foot in an arena, but he certainly should not be an owner.

  23. Look, I understand that as a society we have a long way to go ij completely eliminating racism, but we should be proud of how far we’ve come in just the last 50 years. If you could take black people who died in the 1950’s and show them society today, they would be shocked at the progress thats been made. Millionaire black athletes, prominent and respected black doctors, lawyers, business owners and businessman, politicians, cops, firefighters, agents, and the list goes on and on. Hell, even the POTUS is half black. NONE of that existed even 50 years ago. I’ll reiterate, we still have a long way to go to until racism is almost completely gone. I say ALMOST because unfortunately there will ALWAYS be some people who are racist in their bones, and there’s nothing we can do about that, but I think that in the next 2-3 generations, after most of the old school bigots have died off, then we will be close to a point in our society where race won’t matter.

  24. “Please raise your hand if you have “never” used a racial slur or phrase. ..”

    There is a difference between the kind a of things you might have said, and what he says. As far as I’m aware, you’re not a billionaire team owner who has the money and power to employ people, promote things, and generally actually affect the lives of other people. It’s not simply that he doesn’t like black people. I’m sure black people don’t like him. It’s that he doesn’t like black people and can deliberately discriminate against them (and in fact has) because of his money and business ventures. How can you trust this man to be fair in doling out contracts when he doesn’t think black people are people too? You might have racist views, but as long as all you can do is talk about it, your opinion isn’t serious.

  25. Suddenly, Jim Irsay’s drug issues and Dan Snyder’s supposedly racist team name don’t seem like such a big deal.

    Don’t follow the NBA much, but if I’m the commissioner I’m rallying the other owners to get behind me and squeeze this parasite out of the league.

  26. Stupid is as stupid does and you can’t fix stupid. Just because you have a pile of money or an advanced degree, it doesn’t mean you’re still a stupid, ignorant, pathetic jerk.

  27. Sterling doesn’t appear to discriminate when hiring NBA players for his team. He was to receive a life time achievement award from the NAACP in May.

    I’m not defending his ridiculous comments recorded without his knowledge but the lesson here is beware of a gold digging girl friend and never estimate what they might do to get even.

  28. Please as long as he has that kind of money he is going to be able to buy and trade GF’s like he wants. I can’t believe the dynamic of that relationship. She was pretty much an employee of his.

  29. If you’re OK with it. You are a bigot too. Give him a cowboy hat and he’s Clive Bundy.

    If you don’t like black people, being a sports fan must be pretty tough for you, huh? Gotta wonder what your fantasy teams look like.

  30. First, I think the comments shows a bigot, not a racist. Not that one is better than the other.
    The free speech issue is clouded somewhat. These were not comments meant for public consumption. Wasn’t it a recording made in secret by the girlfriend? I sure hope we all have the right to be a buttwipe in private.
    (I expect she was no longer content to look away from his bigoted ways, and had made the chioce the end the relationship and attemto to bring him down in the process – or something along those lines)
    But even with the free speech issue clouded, the free response is not. Many can and will determine he is a bigot. Many can and will decide they will not support his products, a good deal will avoid his advertisers. But I do not believe it will be enough to effect the operations/profits of the team.
    Many of us have worked for different types of buttwipes. I have. I could do my job, get my pay and not associate or respect the man I worked for. The players do not need to like, respect or associate with Sterling. A coach/GM, I could see some opting to wait on another opportunity.
    We will get the apology press conference, and this will pass. He is 88, his issue will fix itself and he will leave the league. Probably sooner than the league could force him out.
    As for the NFL owners being warned. If any are a bigot, a warning to not be one is not going to change anything. The only warning is to be reminded that anyone at anytime could be recording you.
    But if they are too dumb to know that already, that is not going to change either.

  31. As I said at first, the market will take care of situations like this. When people in today’s world come to learn that a person is a racist d-bag, they don’t like to do business with that person, to work for that person or to associate their own reputation with that person. So, when a person reveals that about themselves, it costs them money.

    Whenever we do.or say in private has a chance of coming out in public. And so the lesson of the day, folks, is simple: don’t be a racist d-bag. And if you choose to be one and it costs you money or a career, don’t complain about free speech or the fact that you have the right to dislike an entire racial group. No one is going to be arrested over this. But this is simple market economics at work. And when you piss off a huge portion of your customers and employees as well as scare away your advertisers and sponsors, you, my friend, will soon be a former owner/executive/manager/worker. That’s all, folks!

  32. So Sterling is prejudiced against people of other races. Newsflash: He has a RIGHT to feel that way if he chooses. You don’t have to like that, and few of us care if you do or don’t. He may or may not be a racist, but being prejudiced, or making prejudicial remarks or slurs, does NOT make one a racist. If he carries his thoughts and or statements, however, to a level where he discriminates, THEN we can begin to talk about being racist.

    Society is NOT going to force people to stop making prejudicial remarks, let alone get rid of prejudicial beliefs, just by having the media and all the politically correct people immediately express righteous indignation every time someone says the N-word, or the C-word, or any other “X” word that implies a slur. You do NOT have the right not to be insulted or offended in this country, and it is not illegal in ANY of the 50 states to say something offensive to someone else unless it involves profanity.

  33. Lol people love throwing around free speak when somebody says something raciest, why didn’t you guys say that when Aldon Smith said something about a bomb in the airport?

  34. You judge a man by his actions, not his words.

    For example, when Roger Goodell doesn’t force Daniel Snyder’s hand when it comes to changing the derogatory and racist name of the Washington DC franchise, one might conclude that Roger Goodell is at best an enabler of racism or at worst a racist himself.

  35. The owners are, like, the ones who OWN the league…. They’re at the TOP of the pyramid…. You can’t fire the owner of your company…. The owners of the league can’t fire each other any more than the owner of your neighborhood McDonald’s can fire the owner of Burger King. Maybe they’ll exert some pressure & hope to make him sell, or cause him some discomfort, but I bet they don’t wanna set such a precedent.

  36. While we are all understandably offended by Sterling’s comments, I also think common sense needs to prevail here, otherwise the approach suggested here could be used for just about anything.

    Racism is, and should be, a non-starter. However, this could very easily be pushed on to other areas. The phrase ” Potential owners should be screened even more carefully to determine that they have done or said nothing that would suggest that their hearts are rotten with racism or other qualities that could result in their wealth and power being used to violate the rights of others”? You could drive an army convoy through that for just about any issue you wanted to bring up.

    Should we use this approach to punish a prospective owner who believes in the traditional Christian definition of marriage? Should we punish prospective owners who take unpopular political stances such as opposing affirmative action or immigration reform?

    Where do you draw the line, and better yet, who gets to define that line?

    The approach suggested in that sentence walks a very thin line towards employing thought police and eventually facism, and that is not the right approach.

  37. Sadly, from what I’ve already heard, the only crime here might be with the girlfriend who, if taped these comments in CA without consent of Sterling, could have broken the law. CA has a two party consent when taping calls. It will be interesting to see, once the NBA angle is dealt with, what transpires there. Also, whether or not the current Mrs Sterling cashes out as well.

  38. The comments show his ignorance. But, I’m not sure he considers himself a racist – which might be worse than his comments.

  39. Being a racist isn’t a choice, it’s imbedded in their being. You can’t change the nature and essence of a racist because that’s just the way they grew up. Each generation teaches racism to the next generation. But each generation has more tolerance and it is just a matter of time. This goes for all ethnic groups.

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