Yes, Donald Sterling Sees His Basketball Team as a Plantation
It’s a provocative comparison, but in this case it’s an accurate one.
By Josh Levin
Donald Sterling has been banned for life from overseeing his plantation....
... I wrote that Sterling views the men on his roster “as tenants on a basketball plantation.” This analogy isn’t just supported by words Sterling said to his girlfriend. It’s been Sterling’s modus operandi for years, and the NBA is only now doing something about it.
... As the New York Times’ William Rhoden argues in his book Forty Million Dollar Slaves, “money does not necessarily alter one’s status as ‘slave,’ as long as the ‘owner’ is the one who controls the rules that allow that money to be made.” Still, I don’t believe it’s fair to label any NBA commissioner a plantation overseer, an analogy that—in that case—trivializes slavery.
In the case of Sterling, the plantation comparison has less to do with dollars and cents than with how he views black people.
It’s not just that Sterling said he gives his players “food, and clothes, and cars, and houses.” As Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes, Sterling “has an absolute plantation prism with which he sees players: He always preferred long, strong, physical players. To him, that’s a basketball player: Big, black and strong.”
Wojnarowski goes on to report that Sterling nearly scuttled the team’s agreement with white shooting guard J.J. Redick because, in the words of a source, “He thought it was too much to pay for a white player.”
Elgin Baylor, the Clippers’ longtime general manager, laid out Sterling’s plantation mindset in a 2009 employment discrimination lawsuit. Baylor, an African-American, accused Sterling of saying he “wanted the Clippers team to be composed of ‘poor black boys from the South’ and a white head coach.” (In the years hence, Sterling did bring in Doc Rivers to coach the team, so I guess that’s some kind of progress.)
Over the offseason, Sterling fired his white coach, Vinny Del Negro, who had led the Clippers to a franchise-history best 56-26 record last season, and hired the black Rivers with a contract of about $23 million over three years. Under Rivers' much more expensive tutelage, the Clippers improved to 57-25 this season.
If you don’t catch a whiff of the plantation here, your nose is broken.
Actually, the only thing Southern about Sterling, who was born in Chicago, is that he's lived in Southern California for almost 80 years. But, don't let that get in the way.