Beyond Donald Sterling

Lazy Analysis Leads to Lazy Cynicism

By Alexander N. Riccio 

Perhaps the Left has become so beleaguered by power structures that any and every effort toward equality or justice is simply discarded as ‘not revolutionary enough.’ The current ubiquitous media fodder surrounding Donald Sterling, racist owner of the L.A. Clippers, has resulted in the obligatory commentary of Leftist publications including Z Magazine (a personal favorite of mine). The conclusions drawn over the controversy, as captured by Z contributor Ajamu Baraka, focus on the blatant “hypocrisy of race discourse in the U.S.” and “the dissociation between this outrage against black people and the ongoing assault in the world of sports on the indigenous people.” Baraka muses on the inability of the American public to concern themselves with serious matters of white supremacy, such as NATO attacks on Libya and drone strikes on Middle-Eastern civilians, while almost instinctively rising to express outrage over “silly, racist comments.”

While it is valid to expose the pretense of “polite white society” and equally reasonable to mention the tremendous obstacles facing racial equality in the sports world (e.g. the defiance of the Washington Redskins organization to change the team name) and U.S. at large, it is also terrifically absurd to imagine that the reaction to Sterling’s “silly, racist comments” would result in the radical restructuring of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and subsequent abolition of white supremacy.   The Left is so starved for a revolution that it’s clouding its analysis. Baraka displays a lack of insight when he attempts to inject revolutionary importance into the slim opening presented by the Sterling controversy. Of course the Left needs to advance real conversations about race.

Obviously white supremacy is an ideology that must be undermined. And clearly there are flagrant manifestations of hypocrisy within media coverage over Sterling. So what can we take away from the Sterling controversy?


Remarkably, the role of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA)—to my knowledge—has largely gone unnoticed in both mainstream and alternative outlets. At the mere hint of a NBPA boycott of the current NBA playoffs, and a fairly modest display of player solidarity, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver immediately responded to the will of the players union by banning Sterling from the NBA for life. Silver has also maintained that he will do everything in his power to force Sterling to sell his team.

Any lesson to be learned from the Sterling controversy should revolve around the importance of organizing. The sole reason Commissioner Silver acted against Sterling was due to an organized players union; without the union’s demand to expel Sterling from basketball, no form of reprisal would have been levied against Sterling, except perhaps a proverbial slap-on-the-wrist.

When Sterling’s comments were exposed, an inch of possibility opened up for social justice, and that inch was taken. Now we have an opportunity to use this piece of current history as an advantage, as an instance when actions of solidarity and an organized workforce came together and acquired the change they demanded. We must be careful not to expect an institution built by white supremacy to crumble due to a crack in its structure, for these impracticalities lead to the type of lazy analysis, and, thus, lazy cynicism so pervasive amongst the Left.

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