Donald Sterling loves the spotlight that comes from owning an NBA team. With the Clippers looking like potential championship contenders, normally, I’d suspect the 80-year-old to seek much of the credit. But one of the team’s key offseason moves not only went through with Sterling’s reservations, he even tried to nix the deal. Now we know why.
J.J. Redick told Sam Amick of USA Today Sports he heard Sterling initially didn’t want to spend money–Redick received a four-year, $27-million deal–on the former Duke guard because Redick is white.
One of the alleged reasons? Sterling, the man whose racist comments sparked this whole furor, was believed to have had concerns about paying a white player that kind of money. He had once given white center Chris Kaman a five-year, $52 million deal, and how that contract panned out (or didn’t, as Kaman played 195 games in the next four years of that deal and was traded to New Orleans with a year and a half left) appeared to be coloring Sterling’s judgment on this deal. In a way, it was a mirror-image of the issue that would be front and center 10 months later.
“I’ve been told both ways: one, that he didn’t want to pay me because I was white, and that he didn’t want to pay me because I was a bench player,” Redick said. “I didn’t know (the deal almost fell apart) until after the fact. I just got a weird phone call from Doc on July 4, and I got off the phone and said to my wife, ‘Something’s going on.’ He’s like, ‘You better play for me (expletive).’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the plan. We figured this out two days ago, right?’
“And then he just rambled a bit. … but he never really got into the nuts and bolts of what was happening. And then I got a call about 48 hours later from my agent, and he said, ‘We wanted to keep you out of it, but here’s what happened.’”
Sterling was recently banned from the NBA for life by commissioner Adam Silver for racist and demeaning comments he allegedly said in a recorded conversation. The entire saga overshadowed L.A.’s first round victory over Golden State. But while the ferocity of the comments took many unawares, the fact that Sterling said those things wasn’t really surprising at all.
In ironic timing, yesterday afternoon I was going through old magazines, throwing out some, saving others, when I came on an ESPN The Magazine from at least five years ago. Inside was a piece on Sterling that dove into his slumlord antics, his sexual harassment of female employees and his penchant for treating his players (mostly black players, by his own preference, reportedly) like property he owns, an accusation that’s intensified in the wake of this reveal from Redick.
Redick went on to say he heard Sterling didn’t want him not only because he was white but because the 6-4 sharpshooter was a bench player. Was Redick misinformed? Was he only saying this because of recent developments? I’m not sure. But I do know that whenever you’re speaking of Donald Sterling, it’s safe to assume the worst.
What do you think?
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