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Strange Fruit: Donald Sterling and Racism in the NBA


Donald Sterling's racism and punishment were all anyone was talking about last week - so we did too! And to supplement our, shall we say, spotty familiarity with athletic endeavors, we enlisted the help of friend-to-the-show Brian Lee West.Brian has spoken to us before about his theater work, but this time he joined us in his capacity as our favorite basketball superfan.In case you were under a rock (or completely overwhelmed by a little horse race), here's what happened: Donald Sterling, owner of the L.A. Clippers, was recorded telling his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, not to post pictures of herself with black people on social media, and not to bring black people to his games. Not only is this obviously racist, it's also pretty irrational; Donald Sterling's girlfriend is half African American, half Latina, and the overwhelming majority of NBA players are black. Including all but two of the players on his own team's roster. And their coach.Stiviano's Instagram photo of herself with Magic Johnson at a Clippers game seemed to be the inciting incident for it all. Magic shot back on twitter that he would never attend another Clippers game as long as Sterling owns the team.NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Donald Sterling from the association for life. The other team owners will vote on whether to force him to sell the team.Brian helped us analyse the situation, including Sterling's long history of racism, the LA branch of the NAACP giving him awards, and what the deal is with racist people who date and sleep with people of color. "Sterling has that plantation owner's mentality where you can enjoy the fruits of your 'property' - what the plantation owner considers his property," Brian said. "But the plantation owner doesn't want to get too comfy. Doesn't want to get too close to the 'property.'"He also wondered whether Sterling's wealth has lead him to be out of touch with mainstream society. "He lives a sheltered life," Brian explained. "He doesn't see what happens in the rest of America. So he's probably really out of touch and thinks that his views are still germane to what is happening in America today. " 

  (While he was with us, Brian also told us about the newest exhibit at the Frazier History Museum, Gridiron Glory. It features a Lombardi Trophy, which we understand is an important prize given to the winners of a sports contest. It also features Brian doing historical interpretation as football star Woody Strode, pictured.)We congratulated George Clooney on his engagement to such an accomplished woman, and we spoke about the HRC's intention to focus on the South - a move that has many southern activists scratching their heads.And of course, we had to acknowledge adult website pornhub for doing their part for the environment; as part of an Arbor Day promotion (SFW link), they planted a tree for every 100 videos watched during the week. As Dr. Story said, "I feel like I've created a garden of Eden."

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.