Like Capt. Renault in "Casa Blanca," we're all just pretending to be shocked, shocked! that racism is going on here. Here, of course, being the soul of Donald Sterling.
The news broke yesterday that the Clippers' owner allegedly said that African Americans should not be seen or heard except, presumably, when they're playing basketball or being exploited in the hideous display ads with which his charitable foundation regularly disgraces the pages of the Los Angeles Times (whose self-disgracing aptitude needs no assist).
The audio tape featuring Sterling's spew supposedly was made surreptitiously and given to the chattering mass medium that is TMZ by V. Stiviano, Sterling's girlfriend. It prompted the expected responses from the expected quarters:
- Magic Johnson, dissed on the tape, vowed never to attend another Clippers game while Sterling owns the franchise.
- Eric Garcetti called the remarks "offensive and despicable" and said they "have no place in Los Angeles."
- The NBA promised to conduct an investigation with dispatch.
- The pandering Bill Plaschke autotyped another column for The Times, calling for Sterling's suspension from the league.
- The team vowed to focus not on their repellant owner, but on winning their playoff series with the Golden State Warriors.
Of course we're not shocked. We're just embarrassed we haven't yet excused this cretin from our midst. Remember, Sterling's the guy whose 2009 federal lawsuit for discrimination included his sentiments "that African Americans and Hispanics were not desirable tenants and that [he] preferred Korean tenants" in buildings he owned.
Remember, also in 2009, that former Clipper GM Elgin Baylor sued Sterling for wrongful termination, alleging in his deposition that Sterling told player Danny Manning his salary offer was "a lot of money for a poor black ... kid."
Remember, in 2011, Sterling's self-aggrandizing ad in the LA Times to celebrate Black History Month by admitting "1,000 underprivileged children free" to the Clippers game ... in March.
Remember, last year, when sports journalist Jeff Pearlman blogged about the time in the 1980s an allegedly drunk Sterling interviewed Villanova coach Rollie Massimino for the Clippers' head coaching position by inquiring "I wanna know why you think you can coach these niggers."
We're not shocked that Donald Sterling is a racist; we're ashamed of our enabling hypocrisy.
The class-challenged LA Times, whose scorched earth coverage today, apart from the always-reflexive, never-reflective Plaschke, included four related stories, none of which mentioned the paper's steady diet of Donald T. Sterling Foundation ads featuring Donald T. Sterling.
Did you see the half-page business section ad today, thanking Donald and Shelly Sterling for their largesse to the UCLA nephrology department? There's so much wrong with that lack of judgment, never mind that the ad used the same ego-stroking headshots featured in all the other ugly Sterling Foundation ads that also decorate the Clippers' NBA website.
Supposedly, Sterling himself applies the lipstick on these pigs, sits in his office designing the ads for which, according to my highly reputable source, he pays The Times a bargain-basement space rate. Or maybe nothing at all -- according to the online magazine Quixo, The Times trades the ad space for paper promotions at Clipper games.
We're ashamed, or should be, that we're not as interested in examining the origins of that tape as we are the antediluvian attitudes it conveys. If the tape is real, it's also illegal. California has a two-party consent law -- you can't record a conversation unless you have permission from all the participants. What's TMZ's responsibility here? Why aren't we pondering that?
Why aren't we pondering Stiviano's character? What kind of person makes illegal recordings and disseminates them? Supposedly, she did so as retribution for a lawsuit filed by Shelly Sterling seeking to recover millions from Stiviano, as well as compensatory damages.
The lawsuit claims that Donald used community property to establish and maintain Stiviano's lifestyle of the rich and now famous. I'm no lawyer, but what's the crime here? Isn't Shelly's issue with Donald?
She told a sideline reporter at today's Clippers-Warriors game that she couldn't confirm that the recording was of her husband, but she did disavow the sentiments expressed on it. I'm not really interested in why a woman would spend 50 years with a man who cheats on her and whose racism she supposedly deplores, but, hey, TMZ ... knock yourself out.
It's pretty clear, to paraphrase Al Campanis, who knew a little something about the consequences of racism, that Donald Sterling does not have the necessities to be a human being, much less a civic leader. But we need to swallow that juicy morsel and chew on the other elements of this story. We need to be a smarter, less enabling culture in the future.