Many sides of racism exist in sports, but only one Imago Dei
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Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has denied he is a racist, publicly asking “for forgiveness” for his “mistake” on CNN. But Sterling, 81, has admitted to a recording of him telling mistress V. Stiviano, 31, that he didn’t want her to bring black people to games. In a tone of despair, Sterling told her, “I’ll get a girl who will do what I want.”
His worldview further revealed itself on the fateful recording when he answered to racism in his own and other cultures. He told Stiviano that change is too hard. “We don’t evaluate what’s right and wrong. We live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture,” Sterling said.
Sterling’s relativism and his Hollywood microculture faced the brunt of the American outrage when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling from the NBA for life on April 29, fined him $2.5 million, and urged league owners to force him to sell the team. The NBA’s new slogan became “We Are One,” prompting a nationwide rally around basketball as the league narrowly avoided a league-wide player boycott.
Sterling, though, was not the only face of racism in sports that week. P.K. Subban, a black Canadian hockey player, scored an overtime win in Boston in the NHL playoffs May 1. Several Bruins fans shot the N-word on Twitter, prompting an apology from the team’s president for the “classless” and “ignorant” views.
And across the pond, whether by pure racism or to throw men off their game, European soccer fans often throw bananas at opposing players (an ape reference). Brazilian Dani Alves of FC Barcelona ate such a banana on the field April 27 in courteous response. But, oddly, he tweeted in social media protest using #WeAreAllMonkeys.
Sterling’s and Alves’ naturalistic relativism may contribute to modern-day racism, but international sports in many ways deny the Imago Dei. From the enmity pouring from the stands of Israeli soccer stadiums, to Russia’s sports and culture wooing of Crimea’s wary and marginalized Tatars, racism stretches to all human hearts fixed only by the One who removed the wall between Jew and Gentile.
Back in Los Angeles, NBA owners are deciding how to proceed to try to force Sterling to sell the team. But the Clippers are owned by a family trust, and Sterling has long publicly flaunted his infidelity toward his estranged wife. Shelly Sterling has hired a law firm to keep her half of the ownership.
At least one person is happy quarterback Johnny Manziel dropped to Cleveland at No. 22 of the NFL draft May 8-10. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam told ESPN he had passed a homeless man who simply said, “Draft Manziel.” The LGBT community is celebrating, too, after the St. Louis Rams drafted defensive end Michael Sam. Sam kissed his boyfriend as he became the first NFL draftee to be openly homosexual. Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones, however, faces a fine and sensitivity training after he tweeted “horrible” and “OMG” about Sam’s kiss. —A.B.
In Brazil, carry a big stick
If you thought Sochi was bad, Brazil and its World Cup beginning June 12 may be worse. Three stadiums weren’t finished at the one-month countdown as Brazil continues to miss major deadlines. Bloomberg says 30 people died in fan violence last year, and another died May 2 when fans in Recife ripped toilets from a stadium’s top deck and threw them on opposing fans below. Team USA will play in Recife on June 26, and Americans have bought three times as many tickets to the month-long tournament as any country outside Brazil, at 150,000. —A.B.
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