Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sterling, the NBA and real news

One of the big news stories of the past few days has been the revelation of racist remarks by Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers.  While the remarks were alleged for the first few days of the story, the reaction and condemnation of Sterling was based on the assumption of guilt.  Clearly, his statements are onerous enough without the realization that his obvious prejudice is directed at the employees that have made his business successful and a significant percentage of the fans who provide his revenue.  And, since the remarks came from tapes made by his much younger, darker skinned girl friend, and based on his history of showing his biases in other public statements and business practices, it is most likely that the voice on those tapes were his.  Still, I thought we believed in innocent until proven guilty, and talk of taking his team from him seemed an over reaction if not, illegal and, frankly, un-American.  Are we really comfortable with taking a man's possessions based on his opinions, as onerous as they may be?

Then, with yesterday's announcement by Adam Silver, the commissioner of basketball, that Sterling would be banned from basketball and that actions would be taken to remove him from influence in the operations of the team, the issue seemed to be settled.  As commissioner of a privately owned business group, Silver believes he has the NBA's charter behind him as well as the votes of the remainder of the owners to take such unprecedented action.  It remains to be seen whether Sterling will go quietly into the night with an estimated 700 million dollar profit from the sale of the Clippers, or whether he will challenge the action in court. 

I hope he fights the decision by the commissioner.  I hope he retains control of the team into next season and that those players with expired or expiring contracts seek employment elsewhere.  I hope that those players with contracts in place, break those contracts, seek employment from other teams and ask for monetary help from the players union while engaged in their search.  I hope that fans with season tickets cancel their plans, and fans who might watch a game or two in person spend their money on other sports or forms of entertainment.  I hope that sponsors of the ads on Clippers radio and TV broadcasts choose to not renew.  In short, I hope that the market works to deter Sterling from ownership, that the value of his team plummets, and that he is rebuked, not in words which are cheap and fleeting, but in dollars and cents which is all he understands. 

In the meantime, there is some real news that should be addressed.  Which brings me to my conspiracy of the day.  Well, actually, not my conspiracy as I am not the first person to mention this nor is it my original thought.  But, did you ever wonder why our news cycle seems so dominated by news of this nature?  Sure, overt racism is an important issue to report, but for days on end, on every opinion, talk and even some business channels?  Are these stories, and for that matter, all of the stories that focus on the lives and foibles of athletes and entertainers, and even the importance of sports in our culture, are they all the manifestations of a plan to distract us from the big problems we face, the big issues we need addressed?  Are they all just fodder to keep us spinning our wheels trying to decide who is the greatest athlete, the prettiest starlet, the newest voice, the owner of the coolest tattoo, while those pulling the strings grow wealthier and more powerful?  As long as we are debating why so and so should have stayed on Dancing with the Stars, we remain ignorant of the evidence of climate change, the collapse of the middle class, and the continued membership of America in the very exclusive club of nations with the death penalty.

Sure, there are news items detailing that today's flooding in Florida is as catastrophic as that from any recent hurricane, and that a recent study indicated that 95% of the recovery wealth from the last recession has been returned to only 5% of Americans, and that yesterday's execution in Oklahoma didn't go as planned because they were using a mixture of chemicals that hadn't been used before which resulted in the convicted murderer thrashing about on the gurney for some time then expire from a massive heart attack.  But will these news items be with us tomorrow?  Or will they be replaced with revelations of a famous Hollywood star with cellulite, or a new Justin Bieber drunken joyride, or a dog who helps feed the family cat?

In the classic chicken or the egg question, is our appetite for what is news and important directed by those with money and power who want us to remain oblivious to the really important topics of the day or are we so petty and trivial in our desire to read and hear about dirty laundry that those who provide our media buffet are only too willing to dumb it down since that is so much easier and cheaper to provide?

Sadly, it is most likely a bit of both although I lean towards the-rich-and-powerful-like-us-dumb theory of journalism and the news cycle.  In the meantime, I have noted a recent interest in Norway for my blog.  Let's hope that if they are seeking info and news about America, they are not laughing at us for our obvious contradictions, and find some real news to share and discuss.    



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