McCann: Other NBA owners share blame for Sterling’s bigotry

Apr. 29, 2014 @ 06:41 AM

The racist comments linked to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling are like the pine tar that was on the neck of New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda — too obvious to ignore.

Whether or not that’s Sterling talking trash about both black and Hispanic folks on that TMZ clip, the cat is out of the bag with respect to the guy needing a little sensitivity training.

Wait — strike that, because that rabid pussycat’s been unleashed for a while. Folks have long known what Sterling is all about. So there’s no need to get into all of the other adjectives that could be used to describe him. That’s too easy.

All of this, however, does lend merit to chatter about Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter reportedly making guests check their cellphones at the door when they drop by his house.

The issue with Sterling is like Pineda and the pine tar insofar as the goo generally having been accepted in Major League Baseball as long as it was applied on the down-low. But when Pineda had the stuff on his neck like somebody who didn’t fully rub in some lotion, then Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell had to say something.

NBA owners for years have known the deal with Sterling yet didn’t check him adequately, if at all.

Now those owners have sticky stuff on their hands. The substance leaked in that TMZ clip is messier than pine tar.

For all of the flack Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan got during his NBA playing days for not being outspoken on social issues, he went at Sterling the way he used to go to the hole, early and with authority.

Jordan and the rest of the NBA owners will close ranks soon enough and set a mean pick on Sterling, but you shouldn’t give them any credit when they take that necessary step to protect their franchises, to protect the league. Those guys knew Sterling had a history of bigotry, but they let him slide. Business was too good, the money too green.

Besides, the owners figured, Sterling was old and would be dead before long.

But boogiemen are a different breed.

In other words, we get what we tolerate. You and I really don’t care who signs our paychecks, and professional athletes presumably aren’t concerned with who puts all of those zeroes on theirs — until they find out they’re playing for a racist.

The Sterling situation has been made out to be a moment of decision for the NBA.

But we’d better check ourselves in the process.

I mean, if you were a fringe NBA player or an aspiring businessperson, how much of Sterling’s silver would you turn down?

John McCann is on Twitter @johntmccann, or email him at