Like most Americans, I was appalled by the comments that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling made about his discomfort with people of color. The National Basketball Association, the league to which his team belongs, quickly levied the harshest possible punishment upon him: a maximum fine and expulsion from the league (via a forced, or heavily pressured sale of the franchise).
By now you may have heard that former Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer has offered $2 billion for the Clippers. Pundits are thunderstruck at the offer, because Sterling purchased the team for a mere $12.5 million in 1981. The highest price ever paid for an NBA team is a bit more than $500 million, which makes Ballmer’s offer look especially outrageous.
As with all media-hyped frenzies, there are aspects of the Sterling saga about which I am curious:
- Was Sterling baited?
- Was mistress/girlfriend V. Stiviano paid off to record Sterling’s rant, or did she simply do it out of spite or a quest for justice?
- What kind of name is “V.”?
Recent reports have indicated that Donald Sterling may have Alzheimer’s dementia. His estranged wife Shelly openly offered Barbara Walters this opinion in a televised interview. News reports from ‘unnamed sources’ indicate that Donald Sterling has been diagnosed by two neurologists as having ‘early’ dementia, and that he may have had it as long as 3-5 years.
Let’s assume that Donald Sterling does have dementia (the same news reports claim that he has been ‘declared mentally incapacitated’). This raises more questions:
- Is Donald Sterling authentically racist, or were his comments made only from the throes of his affliction?
- How accountable should Sterling be if his mind is playing tricks on him?
- And again: Where is the threshold through which someone crosses into dementia?