Today is proof that progress is and always will be an evolutionary process.
"We are one." If only this rally cry posted on the Los Angeles Clippers website in response to the scandal involving owner Donald Sterling were a universal truth, well, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.
While actions are now set in place to ban Sterling from the NBA for life, the incident prompting “we are one” should remind us that Sterling is not the end-all, be-all face of discrimination. There are millions of other individual and institutional bigots around the globe.
Today, the United States inched closer. Unlike many other countries around the world that do little (or nothing) to prevent or punish blatantly racist actions pertaining to sporting events, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has done his best to implement justice. Unfortunately, the emergence of Sterling’s vile views is not an isolated incident.
For those of us who follow the Clippers and the NBA, as well as anyone who reads the newspaper here in Los Angeles, we’ve known all too well about Sterling’s rap sheet. ESPN wrote a horribly damaging piece back in 2009 which detailed lawsuits filed against Sterling by both the Justice Department and basketball great Elgin Baylor, claiming disgusting instances of illegally bigoted business practices and workplace discrimination.
What about the players, coaches and other team personnel who signed with the Clippers knowing Sterling’s smutty track record and reputation?
Other NBA owners, the league office, and advertisers were also aware of these allegations throughout the years.
I’m guilty too. As a young adult, I became conscious of Sterling’s reputation when lawsuits against him were covered by the Los Angeles Times and other news sources I followed. I remember discussing Sterling and his nauseating practices (both in his other business ventures and running a basketball franchise into the ground) with my friends, family and co-workers. For some reason my distain for the man never stopped me from watching Clippers games on TV or buying tickets and merchandise. Why didn’t I - as someone who comes from a family of activists and Holocaust survivors, and has had the pleasure of spending time with people like Tommie Smith and John Carlos - take any proactive measures to voice my views in such a way to make a tangible difference? Why didn’t I put my money where my mouth was, instead of straight into Sterling’s filthy, sexist, racist pockets?
Actions speak louder than words and Sterling’s actions were heinous long before the words on this tape were recorded. Sterling’s actions were far more harmful to our society than Sterling’s words. Shame on us for taking the easy way out and doing nothing while leaving people like L.A. renters hoping to live in safe, healthy residences and Elgin Baylor to fight the good fight alone.
It’s a shame that many of us ignored Donald Sterling’s discriminatory actions for so long thus further enabling him, but today is finally a step in the right direction.
Finally, we can, in a way, pay homage to the struggles and sacrifices made by so many in the sports world over the last 65 years. Hopefully the NFL will take a page from the short-but-brilliant Adam Silver playbook and get its ass in gear to change a racist team name that has been tolerated for way too long.
Thankfully, the Sterling debacle doubles as a teachable moment in which we can learn valuable lessons about history, justice and ourselves. This is the evolution of progress.
The Sherman Effect: The Proof Is In The Pudding
If you’ve had enough, or aren’t interested in yet another Sherm discussion, feel free to take a pass on this blog post. Countless media outlets have covered some angle relating to the Seattle Seahawks cornerback’s on-field interview with Erin Andrews following the NFC Championship game over the last several days, so I fully intended on staying out of the cluster. Why bother, right?
Well, I now feel compelled to jump in on the action for two reasons.
A) new “evidence” has emerged as to what exactly went on between Sherman and 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree on the last play of the NFC Championship game, prompting Sherm’s jacked-up mini-rant, and
B) the vocabulary used to describe Sherman says a lot about our country in general and specifically, certain individuals who used such words.
The above video comes to us care of NFL Films and NFL Network. As you know, NFL Films places microphones on coaches and players during games throughout the season, creating a “Sound FX” segment that gives viewers a great insight as to what really went down between the hash marks.
If you start 40 seconds into the video above, you’ll see that Sherman approaches Crabtree after the game-ending play, pats him on the butt and says, “hell of a game.” Crabtree’s response was to shove his hand in Sherman’s face.
Someone in Crabtree’s corner knows a hell of a lot about excitedly greeting an opponent after you’ve beat them. Remember when 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh gave then-Lions head coach Jim Schwartz a bit of an aggressive good-game-smack on the chest back in 2011? If your memory of the ensuing brawl is a bit fuzzy click this link to watch the video.
Many, many things were said about Harbaugh and Schwartz after that debacle, but one word I don’t recall hearing about either coach was “thug.”
Sherman, on the other hand, has been absolutely hammered for his excited utterance into the lens of a Fox camera within seconds of earning his first trip to the Super Bowl (to be played against the Denver Broncos on Feb. 2).
Thug, as defined by Merriam-Webster is “a violent criminal,” and “a brutal ruffian or assassin.”
Deadspin posted a story showing usage of the word “thug” on television went through the roof on Monday, following the NFC title game Sunday evening. The article even broke down usage of the word by television market. In the least surprising part of the story, Boston led the nation in “thug” chatter, with WEEI radio’s good’ol boys Dennis & Callahan dropping a thug-bomb assault on their listeners during a discussion about Sherman. Those dudes…SMH.
So…. Harbaugh and Schwartz are jerks, loud mouths, out of control, etc. Sherman is a thug (which by definition, is a murderer). Why the distinction?
Common sense tells us that two of these things are not like the other. The aforementioned coaches are white, and Sherman is black. It’s a fairly simple (and upsetting) truth.
Richard Sherman agrees with that assessment and pointed out the hypocrisy in a recent press conference.
Sherman said that some folks are now using “thug” as a substitute for the N-word, and by golly, he’s right! When Sherman retires from football, he should immediately jump into the sports media business because he’s entertaining, intelligent, and comes up with great talking points.
"There was a hockey game [Flames vs. Canucks] where they didn’t even play hockey,” Sherman said on the subject of his new “thug” label during the press conference.
"They just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that, and said, ‘Oh man, I’m the thug? What’s going on here?’"
Sadly, I think we all know the answer.
The sports world suffered a twitter-breaking case of shock and awe today with Deadspin’s piece detailing what appears to be the phony story concocted about the late girlfriend of Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o. While the American public and the media sure felt duped, one of Te’o’s teammates wasn’t surprised, telling PepperOnSports.com that the players on the Fighting Irish football team smelled something fishy back in September 2012.
The Notre Dame football player, who asked for anonymity, told Pepper On Sports, “No we all knew he had only seen her once. But when the media was saying how he went through both deaths we knew,” said the source, referring to the back-to-back deaths of Te’o’s grandmother and girlfriend Lennay Kekua, who allegedly died of Leukemia.
In defense of the Heisman Trophy candidate, the source said he believes the lie may have indeed started with somebody duping Te’o using a phony twitter account, and eventually, faking their own death.
Early in my conversation with the source, the Notre Dame player said, “He lied, but the media blew it up.” In response to my follow-up question asking if the source thought that Te’o kept the story going because of the media attention, the player replied, “Yeah. Right after the Michigan [State] game. He should have never brought her in the media. His grandma passing was enough.”
Notre Dame’s victory over Michigan State and subsequent media explosion appears to have been the turning point for the source and many of his teammates.
The source said while the players discussed their suspicions amongst themselves, they never confronted Te’o.
“We would never bring it up. But we would look at him when he would get all emotional during media about his girl,” the player said.
When asked if he thought Te’o was a good actor, the player replied, “Very good.”