The trial and execution of Donald Sterling has been swift and sure, leaving the talking heads crowing about doing the right thing. The problem is, just like Police Chief Bull Connor in the ’60s, Sterling is an easy target; it takes no effort to decry overt racists, the kind who mutter racist drivel or point fire houses at the innocent.
What would be interesting – perhaps even civilized – is if these same talking heads took aim at the insidious racism that permeates American society, the kind of racism that is shrugged off, such as the fact that while the majority of players are black (78%), the majority of coaches (53%) and general managers (60%) and vast majority of owners are white (96%). While many of these owners might be vaguely beneficent, none are looking to surrender ownership of the plantation any time soon.
This capitalistic wall is the very same issue that grounded Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 when he switched his sights from the blatant racism of the south to the economic racism of the north. It wasn’t a direction that the white politicians and business leaders took kindly too but was a problem quickly and violently solved.When the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies joined the NBA in 1995, the U.S. media was startled to learn that both organizations hired black men as managers – Stu Jackson (Vancouver) and Isiah Thomas (Toronto). This wasn’t much of a story in Canada because these guys knew basketball – one came from the NBA’s Head Office, the other from the championship Detroit Pistons – and that was all there was to it. However the story in the U.S. ran, sadly, like the Sterling story runs today: NBA Serves Justice. Too bad the same can’t be said everywhere else.