Sterling incident a wake-up call for sporting culture

Sports are supposed to be the ultimate forum of equality. 

Games aren’t won by skin color, religion, sexuality or ethnicity, but by hard work and talent. And that’s part of the reason why sports are so great; they’re supposed to be businesses of equal opportunity.

But the events of the past week have many wondering the extent to which racism is still institutionalized in the sporting world.

Donald Sterling’s comments condemning his girlfriend for fraternizing with minorities is not his first offense. The Los Angeles Clippers owner has proved to be a man of questionable character, incurring a lawsuit in 2006 for refusing to rent apartments to blacks or families with children.

There are also reports of him heckling black players from the sidelines and past lawsuits lobbied against him for wrongful termination due to racism.

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    In a news conference on Tuesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver imposed a lifetime ban from the NBA as well as a $2.5 million fine on Sterling. The fine is the maximum amount allowed under the NBA constitution and will be donated to organizations founded to fight racial discrimination.

    Sterling is not allowed to attend any future games, practices or NBA governors’ meetings, and will likely be forced to sell his stake in the Clippers.

    The whole country should be following Sterling’s case, not because he is a horrible man, but because it sheds light on the tendrils of racism still existent in entertainment culture. 

    While this drama was playing out in Los Angeles, a few thousand miles away a banana was tossed at Barcelona defender Dani Alves on the pitch during a game against Villarreal on Sunday. Alves responded by eating the banana right then and there.

    A brilliant response to an ignorant gesture.

    In the next couple days, Alves’ supporters showed their solidarity. FC Barcelona and Brazil teammate Neymar captioned a picture of himself and his son eating a banana with: “We are all monkeys, we are all the same. Say no to racism!!”

    FIFA president Sepp Blatter also came to Alves’ defense on Twitter.

    “What @DaniAlvesD2 tolerated last night is an outrage. We must fight all forms of discrimination united,” wrote Blatter.

    He goes on to assure the public that FIFA will not tolerate racism at the World Cup in Brazil this summer.

    The banana scene, like the Sterling recording, is not an isolated incident. It’s an exposé of Spanish football culture.

    Most fans cheering in El Madrigal stadium that day were probably not racists, but all it took was one individual to spark an international outrage.

    And if that makes people think, then outrage isn’t such a bad thing.

    Barcelona released a statement condemning Villarreal, but is it fair to punish an entire club for the actions of one fan?

    Once these scandals, and others like them — trust me, there are myriad examples — disappear, will we forget the lessons they try to teach?

    Donald Sterling is disgraced.

    Too much light has been shed on his past for him to come out of this crystal clean. He’ll slink away into the shadows, and with time, we’ll forget. Maybe the Clippers will even win the championship.


    The Sterling case is important, and he got his due diligence, but it’s more critical that professional sports learn from this incident.

    The Clippers shouldn’t have to worry about boycotting their playoff games and Alves shouldn’t have to defend his Brazilian heritage.

    But they do.

    Racism is still a reality.

    There are thousands of Donald Sterlings in this world, and it is up to the rest of us to change the culture that allows people like him to poison what should be a contest of strength, not color.

    Aryn is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @arynbraun.