On Tuesday, one of the most significant moments in recent NBA history took place. League Commissioner Adam Silver levied a lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Silver also fined Sterling $2.5 million (the maximum allowed by NBA rules) and lobbied the other team owners to vote on forcing Sterling to sell the team. It was the most forceful punishment Silver could have used, the worst in league history, and it was well deserved.
Sterling was caught on tape making profanely bigoted comments to his girlfriend, a minority, against both blacks and Hispanics. Such comments are unacceptable in any context, and in a league where 70 percent of the players are black, they are particularly shocking. Sterling’s explicit racism left Silver no choice but to lower the boom on him.
In the hours and days that followed, the collective response has been celebratory.
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Sterling’s downfall shouldn’t be celebrated as the end of bigotry. It was merely the end of a bigot. Removing a tumor doesn’t mean the rest of the body is healthy, and removing a bigot doesn’t mean bigotry isn’t thriving elsewhere. The removal of either is an opportunity to examine the whole body for more signs of disease both at an organizational level and a personal one.
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