Want to make a lawyer’s ears perk up? Use the phrase “history of racial discrimination” around them, and it’s like asking a dog if they want to go for a walk. If you’re short on breath or time and want the same effect, however, worry not; mentioning Donald Sterling’s name will do just fine as well. As the LOS ANGELES TIMES reports, the owner of the Clippers was just sued by longtime Clippers GM Elgin Baylor, who accused the franchise, Sterling, and team president Andy Roeser of employment discrimination. The NBA’s mentioned too, but it’s Baylor’s allegations about Sterling that should (finally) place the Los Angeles-area real estate mogul under the national scrutiny he so richly deserves.
If Donald Sterling’s name rings a vague bell to those outside Southern California, it’s probably due to his reign as the owner of the Clippers, where prior to the past few years he was notorious for maximizing profit at the expense of his teams, routinely unloading players before their level of play would force him to pay top dollar. It worked - for him. But according to Baylor’s lawsuit, Sterling’s motives may not have been strictly monetary; Baylor alleges that what Sterling really wanted, and this is an alleged direct quote, was “the Clippers team to be composed of ‘Poor Black boys from the South’ and a White head coach.” Oh, it gets worse. So worse.
For what it’s worth, Sterling claims to have no idea what Baylor is talking about; he told the LA TIMES that he “can’t imagine (it) because Elgin has always been very, very close to me. Every time we go anywhere, we go together. We eat together. We go to games together. But I’ll read it.”
And really, racism like that quote above, while ugly, isn’t itself a crime, even when Sterling singles out 1989’s #1 overall pick, Danny Manning in a similar fashion, saying “I’m offering a lot of money for a poor Black kid.” That’s a bunch of nonsense anyway, since everyone knows Manning got paid* to go to KU. But Baylor also helpfully points out that while his salary was locked at a (comparatively) paltry $350,000 annual rate, the club had hired Mike Dunleavy as coach on a 4-year, $22 million contract. We’re not front- officeologists, but paying a head coach almost 16 times as much as a GM doesn’t make a ton of sense.
But we’re talking about proving racism here, which isn’t something easily accomplished with anecdotal and circumstantial evidence. “Luckily,” Sterling’s got a personal history that would make David Duke visibly uncomfortable.
We can start with the lawsuit successfully filed against Sterling after he was shown to have pressured blacks and Latinos out of renting in some of his Koreatown properties. Sterling ended up paying $5 million just to the filing attorneys; the amount paid out to the renters was likely substantially more, and for good reason; LA WEEKLY has the money quote (slack-jawed emphasis ours):
The plaintiffs’ lawyers, largely led by Liam Garland of the Housing Rights Center, had accused Sterling of telling his staff at the Mark Wilshire Towers — including Dixie Martin, a white woman, and Ray Henson, a black man — that he preferred a Korean staff in order to attract Korean tenants. Court documents allege that he wanted to rent only to Koreans because he believed that “they pay their rent on time and don’t cause problems … He also said that he did not like ‘Hispanics’ or ‘blacks’ as tenants, telling his surprised onlookers that ‘Hispanics smoke, drink, and just hang around the building.’ On at least one other occasion, he had told management staff that he believed that ‘black tenants smell and attract vermin.’ ”
This lawsuit came on the heels of another legal dispute of an even more salacious nature. Sterling was trying to get back a $1 million house that a woman had claimed was given to her by Sterling. She probably figured she had a clear path to silence from him, since according to THE SMOKING GUN, she’d been charging him $500 every time he felt like getting freaky:
[T]he Clippers owner was not shy when it came to describing hour-long sessions with Castro, whom Sterling credited with “sucking me all night long” and whose “best sex was better than words could express.” Testifying that he was “quietly concealing it from the world,” Sterling had a blunt appraisal of his “exciting” relationship with Castro: “It was purely sex for money, money for sex, sex for money, money for sex.”
Of course, that part actually has nothing to do with racism, as you might have surmised, but we figured it’d be pretty funny to make you imagine a 70-year-old man having a ton of sex. The bleach and hacksaw are over there if you want to erase that mental image.
It was just a year after the Koreatown lawsuit that Sterling found himself in hot water again, this time with those lighthearted fellows at the U.S. Department of Justice, who sued Sterling in 2006 for housing discrimination against - you guessed it - black people and families with children.
(This is not something we made up to be funny. This is Sterling’s idea. Seriously.)
But Sterling’s been trying to get back in good PR graces, most recently by (dubiously) promising a homeless center… with his name all over it. Tacky and disturbing, yes, absolutely. But what would you rather have your name all over: a homeless shelter or a discrimination lawsuit? Turns out Sterling doesn’t really have a choice on that one anymore.
*There may not be any actual evidence to support such a claim. In fact we’re pretty sure there’s none.