By now the news is all over America: Donald Sterling, billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has been suspended for life from any association with the NBA and fined $2.5 million. That last bit is just chump change for the slumlord and sports team owner.
The racist comments he made to his “girlfriend” V. Stiviano (left, above) is the ostensible reason he is being punished. But, alas, Mr. Sterling has done far worse than that. In a 2009 piece for ESPN Magazine, Jamilah King wrote the following:
So according to the testimony of tenants, Sterling employees made life difficult for residents in some of his new buildings. They refused rent checks, then accused renters of nonpayment. They refused to do repairs for black tenants and harassed them with surprise inspections, threatening residents with eviction for alleged violations of building rules.
When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to [property supervisor Sumner] Davenport. “That’s because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they’re not clean,” he said, according to Davenport’s testimony. “And it’s because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day.” He added: “So we have to get them out of here.” Shortly after, construction work caused a serious leak at the complex. When Davenport surveyed the damage, she found an elderly woman, Kandynce Jones, wading through several inches of water in Apartment 121. Jones was paralyzed on the right side and legally blind. She took medication for high blood pressure and to thin a clot in her leg. Still, she was remarkably cheerful, showing Davenport pictures of her children, even as some of her belongings floated around her.
Jones had repeatedly walked to the apartment manager’s office to plead for assistance, according to sworn testimony given by her daughter Ebony Jones in the Housing Rights Center case. Kandynce Jones’ refrigerator dripped, her dishwasher was broken, and her apartment was always cold. Now it had flooded. Davenport reported what she saw to Sterling, and according to her testimony, he asked: “Is she one of those black people that stink?” When Davenport told Sterling that Jones wanted to be reimbursed for the water damage and compensated for her ruined property, he replied: “I am not going to do that. Just evict the bitch.”
I see the troubles that are now besetting Sterling as just the beginning of the destruction of whatever reputation he has managed to salvage. Of course, that may not matter to him. But as Shakespeare once wrote in Hamlet: “Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool no where but in ’s own house.”