Money Can’t Always Buy Respectability

Donald Sterling shielded his racism with wealth, until people finally couldn’t take it anymore.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano, left, watch a December 2010 game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Sterling was allegedly recorded making racist remarks to Stiviano during a phone call that was later leaked to TMZ.

Sterling couldn’t hide behind money this time.

By April 30, 2014Leave a Comment SHARE

Pat Buchanan had an interesting column about Donald Sterling and his long history of racism, often self-proclaimed. His point: follow the money.

For years, Sterling has been in court for discrimination and he has made racist comments on the record. He was fined nearly $3 million by the Justice Department for discriminating against blacks and Hispanics in his housing units. Yet, because of his vast wealth, people seemed to look the other way. The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP was even about to give him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

[Read blogger Pat Garofalo on Donald Sterling and racism in sports.]

I don’t often agree with Buchanan on such matters, but he had a point. Why do the Duck Dynasty boys continue to skirt any serious repercussions from racist comments? Why does A&E keep them on and others ignore the racism? Follow the money.

Big, wealthy franchise owners often don’t pay for their outrageous comments and actions. Take Donald Trump – his buffoonery knows no bounds. It really is only when wealth and power with good sense confront wealth and power with bad sense that we see change.

A friend sent me a review of the court case from 1970 when the Kenwood Country Club in Bethesda, Md., was forced to change its discrimination policies. I remember it because my old boss, Sen. Frank Church, along with others such as former Republican Sen. Robert Griffin, Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Nicholas Johnson and Rev. Richard Halverson (later Senate chaplain), filed a suit against Kenwood.

[Vote: Was the NBA right to ban Donald Sterling?]
The tony neighborhood of Kenwood had a long history of covenants prohibiting sales of homes to anyone who was not “Caucasian” – no blacks, no Hispanics, no Asians, no Jews. Not only was membership denied in the Kenwood Club, but as a member you could not even bring a non-white guest to the club. Many were unaware of this until a women member wanted to have a Wellesley College lunch in 1968 and invited the then-Mayor Walter Washington as the speaker. No can do, said the club.

The result was the successful lawsuit and the resignation of members such as Secretary of State William Rogers, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, former Postmaster General Edward Day and the President of George Washington University, Lloyd Elliot. Wealth and power confronted wealth and power. But that was more than 40 years ago and maybe it is time that we don’t just ignore the slights and side comments and behavior of the Donald Sterling’s of the world, but rather stand up to those who think they are untouchable because of their bank accounts.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the tea party.]

Many still believe they can buy respectability. Many believe they can accumulate great wealth and escape responsibility for their actions. It is a shame that we still have to follow the money, even if it finally was successful with Donald Sterling.