Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Donald Sterling

I think, in many ways, this is a signature moment.

In case you're a non-U.S. reader, here's a quick summary. Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers (an NBA franchise), is a racist, misogynist, reprehensible ass. He's 82, and his 20-something year old girlfriend (seriously?) taped one of their conversations (you can listen to it here), in which Sterling sounds like something out of Mississippi in the 1950s.

Three days later (today), the NBA banned him for life.

People are congratulating the NBA for taking a firm stand, but I believe they're missing the point. Donald Sterling being a racist isn't new news, not by a long shot. It's been public knowledge for at least a decade.

Here's the distinction, and it's an important one: The NBA didn't ban Donald Sterling because he's racist. They banned him because racism is now bad for business.

That's why this is a signature moment. Finally.

In less than forty-eight hours after the tape was published, every major corporate sponsor of the Clippers either cancelled or suspended their relationship. Wait, that may not be accurate--I'm not sure it was all of them--but there's a list here, and it's huge.

Look, America is the "make your money" country. Anything that gets in the way of that, even if it would help a huge number of people, gets shouted down by the angry mob. So what makes this remarkable is that it's a market response to something that was widely accepted (and, in many cases, enshrined) in this country for centuries. It's corporations saying that their customers won't stand for this, and that they can't afford to be associated with a racist.

Damn, man, that's progress.

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