WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 29, 2014) — Statement by Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Barbara Arnwine following the recent release of racist remarks by Donald Sterling and the NBA’s Investigation Announcement:
“The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) applauds the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) swift investigation and decision regarding recent disgraceful racist remarks made by Los Angeles Clippers Owner Donald Sterling. Racial equality and justice in America requires the elimination of bigotry, prejudice and discrimination in the $470-billion dollar U.S. sports industry.
The Lawyers’ Committee commends NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for using the broad power of his position to take a stand against racism, sanctioning Sterling to the greatest extent possible by fining him $2.5 million, banning him from the Clippers and the NBA for life and urging the Board of Governors to force the sale of the team. We are also grateful to the NBA Players Association, Chris Paul, Kevin Johnson, Bill Russell, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Steve Nash, Doc Rivers, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others for their excellent leadership during this crisis. It is also notable that Clippers players conducted a silent protest during Sunday’s playoff game.
Today the NBA family was on one team, the Justice Team.
As an organization of over 30 franchises, with predominantly African-American players (approximately 80 percent), the NBA has made great strides in diversity and inclusion. It boasts having elevated some of the first African-American team coaches, executives and owners, and became the first major North American men’s league with an openly gay player this year. Sterling’s record of racist incidents indeed blemishes this trend and his punishment was not superficial.
In a 2009 settlement, Sterling paid over $2.7 million in a housing racial discrimination suit brought by the U.S. Justice Department. Though he admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, the suit accused Sterling of systematically driving African-Americans, Latinos and families with children out of the apartment buildings he owned.
Former Clippers General Manager Elgin Baylor unsuccessfully sued Sterling in 2011, stating that he was fired on the basis of age and race. Court documents revealed disturbing claims including that Sterling refused to fairly compensate Black players and therefore missed out on obtaining multiple players.
We urge all Americans to take a stand in addressing racial discrimination. It is critical that all NBA officials, team owners, coaches, players, ticketholders, sponsors, as well as our nation’s leaders and the general public remain on the forefront of combatting racism, including using the power of their voices, actions and pockets. The Lawyers’ Committee looks forward to working with the NBA, the NBA Players Association and Commissioner Silver as they meet with owners in forcing the sale of the Clippers and continue working to address matters of race, diversity and inclusion.
As the nation approaches the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is incumbent upon us all to take a critical stand in upholding provisions of this legislation, which includes workplace discrimination. This matter is a blatant reminder that racism and bigotry are not dead and we all play a role in transcending past aggressions as we work toward a future of racial justice and equality.”
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. We celebrated our 50thanniversary in 2013 and continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education and environmental justice. For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.