Sadly, the case of Donald Sterling is nothing terribly new.
In fact, the NBA may have just followed a set standard in banning the Los Angeles Clippers owner for life for racially charged comments about African Americans. Major League Baseball set this standard in the late 1990s in dealing with a similar case. Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott made similar racial remarks throughout her life and tenure as owner.
Just like with the NBA and Sterling, MLB knew what they were dealing with in Schott. Sterling’s comments should have come as no surprise given a history of racially charged remarks and a 2006 lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice for housing discrimination in using race as a factor in filling some of his apartment buildings. The suit charged that Sterling refused to rent to minorities in certain neighborhoods. The suit alleged Sterling was quoted as saying “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” and that “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
Much like Sterling, Schott had a history of vile comments. She made positive comments about Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in 1996 in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly.
Major League Baseball suspended Schott for three seasons following her comments. When she made further controversial comments about Asian Americans and African American players, she faced a third suspension in 1999 and sold her share of the Reds for $67 million
“What she said was egregious, but what he said was probably worse,” former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent told Bloomberg News. “There’s a question of where you draw the line. In this case with what this guy did and probably in Marge Schott’s case, you’re well over the line.”
Sterling faces the same fate as Schott. NBA commissioner Adam Silver went further from what MLB did and banned him for life, fining him $2.5 million. The new commissioner also has put the ball in the other 29 owners’ hands in forcing a vote to attempt to ouster Sterling from ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.
There are some more implications of Sterling’s ban. The NBA took a strong stand against racism and made it clear that comments like Sterling’s will not be tolerated. More importantly, however, will his own banishment set a new standard in how professional sports leagues deal with their owners?
Look at a man like Indianapolis Colts’ CEO Jim Irsay, who was arrested for suspicion of DUI and drug possession last month. According to the Indianapolis Star, Irsay has had drug problems for a long time. Could the NFL step in and do something about his antics in regards to his duties with the Colts?
Donald Sterling’s exile from the NBA is only following a standard set by Major League Baseball with Marge Schott, and it may have set some new standards against racism as well as the accountability of bosses of pro sports.