NBA Commissioner Adam Silver dealt a sharp public rebuke today of Clippers owner Donald Sterling. As I am sure you have heard, the ranting bigot is banned for life from the NBA, and will have to pay a 2.5 Million dollar fine. This was a much harsher decision than I expected personally, and I think it was the right decision on Mr. Silver’s part. Given the fallout over the last three days, and the past incidents involving Sterling, a lesser punishment would have been seen widely as a slap on the wrist. Now that the NBA has dealt with Sterling, the question is who will deal with the NAACP?
The behavior of the L.A. chapter of the NAACP has been shameful, to say the least. Sterling before the recordings leaked was slated to receive an award from the chapter. It was only revoked in light of the controversy. However, even after that decision was made, the NAACP expressed their willingness to forgive and continue to work with Sterling. How do you forgive someone who had not even at that point publicly apologized? Furthermore, Sterling has received past awards from the NAACP despite many of his real estate practices. Shouldn’t an organization vet a supporter before they so openly recognize them?
In an earlier statement about the emerging situation, this writer said that the behavior of the NAACP illustrates some of the problems with a civil rights organization having corporate backing. Since the L.A. chapter of the organization received so much financial support from Sterling, they could only soft peddle a response. This is another example of how compromised a group can become when it gets so many of its resources from those in opposition to their stated goals.
The role that the NAACP played in this whole debacle is not something that should be dismissed from our collective memory so easily. After the memes, jokes, and think pieces of this incident stop swirling the internet, progressive minded African- Americans will still have to reckon with their legacy organizations being in the pocket of corporate benefactors. Getting our organizations to be able to act more forcefully and independently would be a good point of departure- something that we could begin to act on.
Marc W. Polite