OK, so Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling is a racist. Because of that fact, Sterling was suspended for life from the NBA, and he might be forced to sell his team. Such an action by the NBA and, specifically, by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, was widely applauded. At 80 years old, Sterling appears to be a racist remnant from a by-gone era.
Denounce Sterling in the strongest language possible, and white folks can assure themselves that they are not racists. In other words, eliminate the racist, and you eliminate racism, so we can all go home and continue our lives.
However, African American columnists suggest there is something deeper. The NBA can congratulate itself all it wants on how diverse they’ve become in their ownership and with their players. However, diversity largely stops at the executive floor.
The NBA is 76 percent African American, yet only eight of its 30 coaches are black. The association has 30 owners; one is black.
New York Times columnist William Rhoden sees very little diversity when he steps into the upper floors of an NBA team’s office or into a press box at a NBA arena. Decision makers and opinion shapers in the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL are mainly white men.
Sports is run by white supremacy culture, ESPN columnist Jason Whitlock writes.
Indeed, the sports community, like most communities, has gone from the elimination of overt racism to the persistence of a more covert racism. Sociologist Edwardo Bonilla-Silva believes the structure of racism today can be better recognized through what he calls, “racialized social systems.” He means that race is involved in what should be race-neutral institutions, like the NBA.
For example, lucrative, male team sports have segmented and hierarchical systems. Those who play the sport in the NBA, NFL and MLB, rarely matriculate to positions of power unless they happen to be white.
African Americans and other people of color are filtered out and separated, just like they are in the legal system or in public education.
African Americans are more likely to be convicted of, and serve longer sentences for, the same crimes as whites. In education, public schools serving black and brown populations get less funding, resources and teaching talent than those in schools serving white populations.
Donald Sterling’s racist wicked witch is dead, but his castle remains. The next question is, what can professional sports as an institution do about its racialized practices? That is the subject of our next blog.