NBA tries to erase racism with a T-shirt

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NBA tries to erase racism with a T-shirt


Kavitha A. Davidson

The NBA has started the process of removing Donald Sterling as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and forcing the sale of the team. It is a process that will take at least weeks and could ultimately net Sterling close to $2 billion. The league, however, has already started making money in the aftermath of Sterling’s ouster, albeit for a good cause.

ESPN’s Darren Rovell reports that the NBA and Adidas have begun selling “We Are One” T-shirts featuring the Clippers’ logo. Shortly after Commissioner Adam Silver announced the punishment for Sterling’s racist comments, including a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine, the Clippers website redirected to a black screen featuring the simple message: “We Are One.” The phrase took off as the rest of the league and the sports world joined in a show of solidarity and unity.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the T-shirts are available in four styles, including options with the Clippers’ logo for LA fans and the NBA’s logo for others. The league says that all proceeds will be donated to tolerance organizations, in keeping with its pledge to give Sterling’s fine to anti-discrimination charities.

It’s a pretty great strategy all around, both in raising good will for the league and Silver’s profile as the new, white-hatted man in charge. It also helps boost the philanthropic spirit as charities have been low-profile, albeit willing, casualties of the Sterling saga. Some nonprofit groups have declined significant donations from Sterling, a misguided attempt to send a message against bigotry. Goodwill Southern California rejected Sterling’s donation of $100,000 over the next 10 years. A Place Called Home will keep the $30,000 it has already received but will not accept the $70,000 remaining in Sterling’s $100,000 donation. UCLA went a step further, returning $3 million pledged to its nephrology program.

It’s admirable that these groups would want to take a symbolic stand, but these aren’t for-profit conglomerates whose partnerships with Sterling only impact their balance sheets. Severing these ties after the donations have already been made has very real consequences. Publicly denouncing racism is all well and good when it doesn’t come at the expense of high-risk teens and cancer patients.

Still, in light of the fallout against the NAACP, which had awarded Sterling a lifetime achievement award after receiving an undisclosed amount in gifts from him over the years, it’s understandable that charities would want to dispel any notion that they condone Sterling’s racist attitudes and actions. While not directly affecting these particular groups, the NBA donating the “We Are One” T-shirt proceeds can at least begin to compensate for the secondary damage from this ordeal.

BY Kavitha A. Davidson, Bloomberg View sports columnist

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