Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I've been thinking a lot about what integrity means lately. So when I ran across this story which doesn't personally involve me or anyone I know, it gave me pause to really reflect on how we view integrity as a society.

Word came out this evening that the family court judge in California ruled against Donald Sterling and for his wife, upholding her right to sell the Los Angeles Clippers without her husband's consent as a result of his documented diminished mental capacity. I'm sure he'll keep suing - that's what he does - and perhaps this story from ESPN a few weeks ago will still come into play if the process drags out, but in either event, it really speaks to integrity.

Essentially, many of the Clipper players and coaches are leaving open the option to demand release from contracts or trades or simply not show up for work if Donald Sterling is still the owner when the NBA season begins. Sterling has had a troubled racist past, which has become front page news over the last few months, causing such public outcry that his team is being sold out from under him. He's become a pariah, of his own doing and deservedly so, but a pariah nonetheless, as well as a popular public punching bag.

The thing that speaks to integrity, though, is that this isn't really news. It's not as though the recent media storm of racism is anything new for Donald Sterling. Nothing that's happened has been revelatory to anyone around basketball. It was not a surprise; it's just become more noticeable among the general public.

Now that it's become a national story, the interested parties seem far more interested. They're itching to get out if this man stays, but they weren't so conflicted when they were taking his money and he still had power.

Doc Rivers went to the Clippers knowing Donald Sterling was a racist. Chris Paul went to the Clippers knowing Donald Sterling was a racist. Blake Griffin signed a contract extension with the Clippers knowing Donald Sterling was a racist. To think that they're making some righteous stand now, simply because everyone else is actionably upset just rubs me the wrong way.

I'm not defending Sterling. The dude is a slimeball and a creep and he needs to go. But threatening to boycott is a very borderline gesture at best. I guess they do alright walking the line by leaving it open as a possibility.

If the threat is enough to push Sterling over the edge and get him to accept the inevitable, then perhaps it's worth it. If they actually follow through on it - doesn't that just say, "We didn't care enough about this until everyone else knew." To me, that lacks integrity.

I'm not saying Doc Rivers and Chris Paul aren't people of integrity (although the public statements and circumstances of their respective arrivals in LA leave something to be desired), but we need to hear, just as loudly, apologies for having gone to the team in the first place.

Chris Paul needs to say, I was wrong to sign here; I was wrong to ignore this problem. The players and coaches (as well as fellow owners and league executives) are getting off pretty easy by allowing Sterling to take all the blame. Yes, he's a bad dude who's done some awful things - but the fact that so many powerful people (people who are, in large part, too rich to be bought off the way Sterling bought off so many other detractors) turned a blind eye to what they're now calling unacceptable is pure cowardice.

Anyone who's been complicit in letting this go on - season ticket holders who are just now threatening to give up their sets, advertisers, players, coaches, anyone - we need to know why there has been little public outcry until now.

This is the real integrity moment or perhaps that moment has passed. Standing up to criticize someone who's head is already on the chopping block takes no real guts. Perhaps we need to hear from those players who refused to play for Sterling because of his racial views. At the very least, we need explanations and apologies.

Integrity is being willing to stick your neck out for what's right. It's taking blame for things no one was ever going to call you out on.

I don't want to diminish the stands being taken now by players, coaches, and the league - but please, can we not hold them up as heroes for doing what's expected when its easy. Let's celebrate those who do what's right when it costs them something.

No comments: