Donald Sterling’s Rich White Guy Problem

The Clippers owner isn’t just wrong on race. He’s bad on class issues, too.

Donald Sterling

A lot has been made about the comments (allegedly) made by Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling about race. But I think his comments about class are also kind of interesting. Here he (allegedly) is, talking about Clippers’ players:

The woman reminded him that the Clippers roster is primarily black.

“I support them and give them food and clothes and cars and houses,” said the man alleged to be Sterling. “Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?”

“Who makes the game?” he continued. “Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?”

And hey, has there ever been a more perfect encapsulation of capital’s view of labor?

Me? I’m pretty sure the league doesn’t exist at all without the efforts of its workers — which is to say, its players. People buy tickets to watch the players. People buy the jerseys of players. Networks pay hundreds of millions of dollars to show players playing on TV. The owner, when he’s seen during these broadcasts, is seen for a few moments if at all.

In other words: The players, the workers, generate whatever monetary value the team has to Sterling. Yet he sees himself as the provider! He gives them food and clothes and cars and houses. He makes the game.

I’m not being Marxist here: The NBA isn’t a global phenomenon without owners to organize teams and an administrative office that exploits the game for maximum exposure and popularity. “Both labor and capital are necessary, but neither is sufficient,” a conservative friend of mine observed this week. “Take away the players and you have no game and no league. Take away the franchise owners, and the marketing and capitalization they’ve brought to the NBA, and you have pickup games on the playground.”

Absolutely. But the product, at the end of the day, isn’t just the fruit of the players’ labors — it is the players’ labors.

To be fair, the NBA itself seems to understand this. Former Commissioner David Stern, whatever his myriad faults, always talked about the league’s “partners” in the players’ union. The salary cap system in the league is also a revenue-sharing system — with players guaranteed under their collective contract to receive roughly half the league’s revenue in the form of salaries. (Locally, the hard-tanking Sixers came dangerously close this season to ducking under the salary “floor” required by the revenue-sharing terms of that contract.)

Sterling himself doesn’t seem to understand the mutually beneficial nature of that partnership. If the tape is to be believed, he sees himself as the sole creator and source of value in his team, and his fellow owners the source of value in the league — and in that he seems to resemble all those rich old white guys who fret that the mere proposal of slightly higher marginal tax rates means that Hitler has been reborn in the person of Barack Obama.

Thing is: Donald Sterling appears to be an exceptional racist — because there are a lot of racists who’d love to have their picture taken with Magic Johnson. I don’t think he’s an exceptional capitalist, though. He really thinks he makes the league. That should probably offend players on the Clippers almost as much as his (alleged) racism.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • J miller

    Sterling isn’t white, he’s jewish. As is stern and commissioner silver. Please quit lumping all light skinned people as “white”. Semitic people such as Palestinians, Jews, Lebanese, north Africans can have light skin, blonde hair and colored eyes, but aren’t European.

    • Kimm Ryland

      My Uncle Zachary
      recently got a 9 month old Mercedes-Benz CL-Class CL63 AMG only from working
      off a home pc… go now F­i­s­c­a­l­P­o­s­t­.­ℂ­o­m

    • Ummmm….what?

      Jewish is a religion, not a race.

      • garygnj

        Actually no. Judaism is a religion of the Jewish people. Jews are a race. That’s why you don’t worry about Tay-Sachs disease.

      • Charles

        It is a race. Just as Netanyahu. You can’t be a citizen of Israel unless you get a DNA test and pass as Jewish. Give me a break!

        • The Benefactor

          So true!

        • Marissa

          Charles, that actually is not remotely true at all. There are many Muslim, Christian and Druze that are citizens of Israel. Not to mention all of the immigrants that Israel takes in from Ethiopia, because no one else will.

          • Charles

            Marissa, you don’t know Israel at all. There’s a two-tier citizenship in Israel. Only Jews are the true citizens and they have to prove it with their DNA. They are a race; the religion is not that important. Everybody else has to abide by a second-class status. Christians, in particular, are spat upon if they preach the Bible in public and there is no defense. Do some research.

    • MBoni

      In fact, most Jews are of European descent. Just what is your point about the meaning of “white,” anyway? You sound pretty racist yourself.

      • Charles

        Most Jews are NOT of European descent. They are of Middle Eastern descent.

        • The Benefactor

          They are like Arabs, both are Semites.

          • Charles

            A short comment to the article below, reprinted from the Moslem (I presume) World View News Service [wvns]: In a book “Last sigh of Moor” published in 1995, the dark skinned Indoeuropean antireligious writer Salman Rushdie claims that according to Indian history books, first Jewish refugees, which in Antiquity have set their settlements in India, after Nabuchodonozor conquered their land in the 6th century BC, were… dark skinned, probably of NEGROIDAL RACE. (Remember that Moses had wife from the Medianite tribe, from the country of volcanos, which corresponds to Ethiopia of today.) According to Salman Rushdie the second wave of Jewish emigration to India, after the destruction of Israel by Romans in 1-2nd century, consisted of WHITE JEWS. The third wave of Jewish emigration to India, which occured after 1482, when Queen Izabelle have thrown Jews out of Spain, arrived and settled at Cochin peninsula in Southern India, where was the capital of organized by vice-King Vasco da Gama Portuguese colony. According to the late 19 century Larousse Encyclopedia, Jews from the tropical Conchin were the most dark skinned Jews known at that time. Salman Rushdie claims that nearly all Jews from Conchin emigrated to Israel in the second half of 20 century. M.G. Anti-SemitismFrom: Zionist organisations are becoming increasingly dependent upon the charge of “anti-Semitism” as a political weapon. Anti-Semitism has a very precise definition. It refers to remarks or acts targeting the ethnic group termed Semites, which comprises both Jews and Arabs. The Hebrew Encyclopedia defines anti- Semitism as all manifestations of hatred and racism directed against Semites. The Fact is that anti-Semitism also comprises all manifestations of hatred and racism directed against all Arabs. Zionist media and political forces have warped this definition in several ways. They have manipulated the concept of Semitic ethnicity so as to apply to Jews alone, thereby enabling them to level the allegation of anti-Semitism against the Arabs in spite of the fact that they constitute the majority of the Semitic peoples.

  • Hypocrites, all of yuz!

    How’s about that planned “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the NAACP?

    • garygnj

      yeah so? It was a local chapter and maybe he gave a lot of money. rich guys do that you know. Sometimes people are mistaken about what they know about somebody like that. Or did you think that maybe they’d impeach Obama because the NAACP gave a racist an award without knowing that he’s a racist?

  • Charles

    Why call Sterling white? Are you trying to make a mess of things regarding White people?

  • The Benefactor

    Sterling isn’t white–he’s Jewish!

    Most middle class whites will tell you that they don’t want their daughters or sons marrying blacks or Hispanics!

    Truth is hard sometimes, I know.