The NBA's commendable stand against racism

Friday, May 02, 2014    

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AFTER listening to the despicable racist sentiments expressed by Los Angeles Clippers owner Mr Donald Sterling in a quarrel with his girlfriend, no one should be surprised at the decision of the National Basketball Association (NBA) to ban him for life.

That the NBA went further and fined him US$2.5 million demonstrates the league's rejection of the kind of views that, unfortunately, are still held by some people in America.

For many decades the United States has struggled with the issue of race, which is inextricably linked to that country's history of slavery and segregation.

To be fair, the United States has made great strides in rejecting racism, a fact that is demonstrated in the widespread outrage in that country to Mr Sterling's comments. America has also demonstrated to the world that it has changed significantly from the days of Jim Crow with the election in 2008 and re-election four years later of Mr Barack Obama as president, making him the first black man to head the government in a predominantly white country.

Getting to that point, though, wasn't easy. Many Americans have died, and many more were incarcerated since the era of the civil rights movement which saw the emergence of great individuals such as Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Ms Rosa Parks, Mr Thurgood Marshall, Rev Jessie Jackson, and Mr Andrew Young, to name just a few.

We have no doubt that those individuals, given their history, would have reacted to Mr Sterling's comments in like manner to President Obama who, during a news conference in Malaysia last week after the scandal broke, said: "I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out so much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves."

That is a most sober and responsible response that not only defines the measure of President Obama but also indicates his abiding faith in the decency of the American people.

As it now stands, Mr Sterling is growing isolated as a news report by the Associated Press on Wednesday said that a majority of NBA ownership groups contacted by the news agency have indicated that they will vote to force Mr Sterling to sell his club.

Mr Sterling, of course, has remained defiant, telling Fox News earlier this week that he has no plans the sell the Los Angeles Clippers.

Whether or not he is forced to sell the club, the commendable actions of the NBA thus far, as well as the outpouring of anger among the American public to his comments have sent a powerful signal that there should be no place in civilised societies for racist bigotry.





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