I‘M GOING TO begin by admitting my heart’s not in this post. That’s because it’s about two squalid, ridiculous human beings who deserve obscurity: V Stiviano and Donald Sterling.
Unfortunately you know who I’m talking about. I don’t even care about the NBA, and yet I now know all about the personal history of the Clipper’s owner. Everyone from the local newspaper editor to the President of the United States has had something to say about this shallow, materialistic couple.
Stiviano – that’s her last name as of 2010, and her first name since then has been V – is one half-century younger than Sterling. Both are careful to say she’s not a girlfriend: she’s an archivist. Part of her job is to record everything her, um, business associate Donald Sterling says. One of these many recordings came into the possession of someone at the celebrity gossip website TMZ, and the rest has been basketball history. Sterling in the days since has been shamed and denounced and banned for life from the sport.
As many have noted, there are no revelations in the recording. For years Sterlings views have been well-known throughout the league. He’s been in court numerous times over the years, in cases that have to do with discrimination as well as his other indiscretions. Sterling is married, but he’s been having affairs for well over a decade. His wife is battling his “archivist” mistress, and his mistress is battling his wife, and it looks now as if Sterling is battling Stiviano and Stiviano is battling Sterling and both are battling Shelly Sterling. What a stupid, stupid bunch of irrelevant, useless tripe.
Honestly, this couple sounds like the most dull brand of LA trash. Stiviano describes herself as an “artist, lover, writer, chef, poet, stylist and philanthropist.” Mrs. Sterling’s characterization – she’s a “gold digger” – is more credible. The old man has furnished her several luxury automobiles, a $1.8 million house, and wads of cash. She’s so awful that even Donald Trump looks down on her.
So why am I writing about it? Well, there are a couple reasons. The first is that some people are trying to make this into a broader discussion about race, when the Stiviano-Sterling drama is really about a nasty and tawdry couple. It’s not about the state of race in America, or even the state of basketball. It’s interesting to see back room, old school racism leak into the public square, as it does from time to time. People exposed in this way don’t fare well. That’s a certain indication that the world is changing. Things are far from perfect, but it’s not 1950, either. This case proves that.
Maybe I’m contradicting myself here, but the Sterling episode does suggest a broader rot. This guy’s many indiscretions and offences were tolerated and even rewarded for years, because he has wads of money and has used it strategically to buy himself a moral indiscretions pass. The race discussion in America hasn’t kept up with the fact of economic and social class. The President weighed in on race, but what does he think about the sharp divisions of rich and poor. Do you think maybe President Obama has a lot more in common with middle and upper class white folks than he does with poor blacks? Is it possible that the inherited privileges of his children will counteract any disadvantages adhering to the color of their skin? I hope the Obama children do transcend the racial prejudice of earlier generations, and I think they will – because they now belong to a privileged class.
Leave it to the media to leap on the obvious, and to open the wrong conversation. This is a story about a rich guy who was able to buy everything: a virtual plantation of poor black athletes, sex, a get out of jail card, and a rubber stamp of approval from the NAAACP, who was one of the beneficiaries of his cynical and manipulative largesse. Sterling is no different from the sharks who infest the US Congress, and indeed every centre of political and economic power. He’s a racist version of the Koch brothers, just another rich dude pissing on everything and passing out the dollar bills to make certain his selfish behavior goes unnoticed. This story is about money, not race, and the only remarkable thing is that for once it appears Sterling’s money isn’t going save him.