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Baffoe: Sterling Is Over And Much Else Is Not

Clippers fans express their views on owner Donald Sterling. (Getty Images)

Clippers fans express their views on owner Donald Sterling. (Getty Images)

Tim Baffoe - clean background Tim Baffoe
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his de...
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By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS) NBA commissioner Adam Silver did not end racism in the world. Nor in this country. Nor in Los Angeles. Nor in the NBA.

And, in fairness, it’s not exactly Silver’s job to do so. Banning Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life from the league after his offensive racist comments is nice. It’s a fantastic first major statement of Silver’s commissionership, and most intelligent people understand that a pile of garbage in an Armani suit like Sterling has no productive place in organized sports. But pump the brakes on any “mission accomplished” feelings just yet.

Sports and society at large need these small victories to eventually garner the big ones, but we aren’t done here.

We aren’t done until we examine the other owners in other sports — plutocrats all and probably not-so-great people for the most part who would sooner crush us less-thans for their own personal enjoyment than change their business habits. All of Sterling’s peers allowed him to operate unmolested while knowing what he is. Now they agree with Silver, though.

And I don’t mean just monitoring and finger wagging at the obviously awful Marge Schotts and Daniel Snyders. That goes for “progressive” and hip Mark Cubans and Rickettses. It goes, too, for the benevolent Jerry Reinsdorf, a long-time Sterling friend but doubtfully racist confidant, yet certainly enabler by inaction.

We were all enablers by inaction. Bomani Jones wrote about Sterling’s vileness in 2006. Repeated attempts to get us to care followed between then and now. And every time, even the most progressive of us, the supposedly most anti-racist of us, gasped and wrung our hands about for a bit and moved on to whatever other flavor-of-the-week appalling story raised our sanctimonious dander.

And then here we are today. Shaking hands and patting backs feeling like we really did something, right?

Wrong. Listen to Jones explain it better than I can.

Then read what Jones tweeted after those who listened to that link were like, “Um… oh, exactly! So true, Bomani.” While we adjusted their collars and wondered if somebody just upped the thermostat in the room.








That’s on me. I’m guilty of it. I climb up on my ivory tower of blogdom here a lot and don’t necessarily walk the walk. I’m the phony too often, and I’m not proud of it. And even if I make fun of some idiots apologizing for Sterling, I’m not absolving myself of inaction otherwise.

And I don’t know exactly what I will do now. I’ll continue pointing at bigotry and prejudice, but pointing does only so much. Pointing isn’t stopping murders in Chicago that Jones mentioned as a much more real problem than Sterling. Pointing isn’t answering the questions of Black and Hispanic teenagers in my classroom who are there at the cost of $10,000 and the cost of still sometimes feeling alienated in an otherwise really progressive, liberal arts-oriented, college preparatory school where 97 percent of grads go on to college. Pointing gets Facebook likes by some and eyerolls by others.

I’m a coward sometimes. I’m too tired sometimes. I make excuses sometimes. And so do you, and so did a lot of people for a long time on Sterling and the much, much broader issues that Sterling is currently “bigot of choice” for.

Donald Sterling is over. A hell of a lot more is not and won’t be for a long time — longer if we rely on just pointing.

Oh, but I forgot I’m supposed to stick to sports.

Fine. In the National Basketball Association of the United States of America in the Land of the Free, Sterling is over, but discrimination by owners is not over.

Sterling is over, but morons who cite the First Amendment without understanding the First Amendment to cover up their now-confronted feelings on race are not over.

Sterling is over, but the almost-player-walk-out is not over.

Sterling is over, but drawing parallels to Jay-Z, who sold drugs in the projects as a child — a situation beget by slumlords like Sterling who force the creation of environments in which a child sells drugs to survive — owning a minority share of the Brooklyn Nets is not over.

Sterling is over, but the compulsion to ask “If a Black guy said what Sterling did, would it be racist?” is not over.

Hell, maybe Sterling is not over because we sometimes forget our courts system tends to favor people with Sterling’s money, and a bad guy with lots of money and legal pull and a vendetta might be more of a problem than most realize.

But is feeling good about our supposedly anti-racist selves over?

You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe.