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Three leagues, 92 teams, One Black majority owner

Ashley Montgomery | 5/8/2014, 9 a.m.

Recently, an precedented move occurred in the National Basketball Association when the Commissioner, Adam Silver cracked down on Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Silver banned 80-year-old Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million after his girlfriend, V. Stiviano allegedly leaked an audio recording of him making racist comments. In the audio recording Stiviano can be heard asking Sterling, “Do you know that you have a whole team — that’s Black — that plays for you?”

Sterling’s reply was shocking and downright offensive.  

“I support them and give them food, and clothes and cars, and houses Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? . . . Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Are there 30 owners, that created the league?” Sterling allegedly said on the recording.

Miami Heat forward LeBron James, said “there is no room for an openly racist owner.” He and several other members of the league are working to pry Sterling’s fingers from his ownership. Although he was kicked out of the league, Sterling still has legal ownership of the Clippers. Silver says that he is confident that he’ll receive the majority votes needed in order to force Sterling to sell his team however.  

It is a monumental occasion for a major league to take a stand for minorities despite the economic risks. Unfortunately, it still does not discount the fact that there could be more owners with the same “slave mentality” as Sterling.

Overt and institutional racism may not be as blatant as we’d like to believe.

It is speculated that Sterling bought his latest Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association Advancement of Colored People that he was slated to receive this month. But once the public knew how Sterling really felt about Blacks, all money that he donated over the years was reportedly returned, his nomination was rescinded and the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP President, Leon Jenkins, resigned. Sterling wasn’t stripped of all of his NAACP award though, he was given a Humanitarian Award in 2008 and a President’s Award in 2009. Before his resignation, Jenkins did tell reporters they were going to rescind those awards too.

“The Los Angeles NAACP intention to honor Mr. Sterling for a lifetime body of work must be withdrawn, and the donation that he’s given to the Los Angeles NAACP will be returned,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins says that in hard times, hard decisions have to be made.

DIVERSIFYING THE LEAGUE  

Although many steps have been made for the advancement of professional Black basketball players over years past, there is still room for growth — particularly in ownership.

A recent study done by Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, highlighted the lack of minority owners within professional sports leagues. Lapchick researched and published data on diversity titled The 2013 Racial and Gender Report Card: National Basketball Association.

As of 2013, 76.3 percent of the players in the NBA were Black. The percentage of Blacks decreases as the hierarchy moves up. Only 43.4 percent of NBA coaches were Black compared with just 2 percent of the league’s majority owners.

Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, is the only Black principle owner, according to Lapchick’s report.

Many league officials believe there will always be a shortage of Black basketball team owners and a “culture” that Sterling spoke of on the leaked audio tape. Many also believe that until there is a diverse number of team owners in basketball, whites will continue to hire more of their own for managerial positions executive officers and presidents in the NBA.

Latinos, Asians, or those classified as “others” held none of these positions, according the data Lapchick collected.

Many league officials believe Sterling’s ban reflects a diverse change in the NBA.

Oprah, Diddy and Floyd Mayweather are just a few of the Blacks that have expressed interest in buying the Los Angeles Clippers once the NBA forces Sterling to sell. As the old saying goes, “everything happens for a reason.” We shall see where this takes us as a race in the future.