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Donald Sterling Is Apologizing Today For Racist Remarks In CNN Interview


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The rich and powerful are different to you and me. There is a famous cartoon from the New Yorker a few years ago, one that appeared after yet another of the more egregious cases of financial fraud on Wall Street had occurred at the time.

In the cartoon two portly gentleman, both wearing horn-rimmed glasses and smoking cigars appear to be deep into their cups at their local, of course exclusive, club. Perhaps they were two leading investment bankers of the day. In the cartoon caption one of them says to the other, with a clear eye, “I don’t see the difficulty; if people want ethics let’s just give them ethics.”

The key to maintaining wealth beyond generations, as the British aristocracy long ago discovered, is to appear to adapt socially. Historically both the French and Russian aristocracies, in contrast, had a much harder time learning this, leading to revolutionary movements that eventually took their lives as well as their estates.

In America, as we can see from the New Yorker cartoon, great wealth and power has learned to become even more flexible: simply let’s just appear to give people what they want.

If worrying about ethics was the last big thing, in the United States overt racism is now really politically incorrect, even for died-in-the-wool Republicans. So when Donald Sterling was caught on tape last month making derogatory regards about African Americans, hoping to impress his girlfriend V. Stiviano, who is Latino and half black herself, it all went downhill for him when an audio tape of the conversation was later released to the world and then went viral.

As the owner of the LA Clippers, which is populated with brilliant African American baseball stars, this was not the smartest thing he has ever done, therefore. The NBA Commissioner Adam Silver then acted and two weeks ago banned him for life from the NBA, from any role with the LA Clippers as well and fined him US$2.5 million in the process

In a very smart move, to keep the baseball team on the rails in the midst of the ensuing scandal Richard Parsons, who is a former Chairman of Citigroup and the former Chairman and CEO of Time Warner, and also a former advisor to President Obama, has already been quickly parachuted in to become the new CEO of the team.

Now the NBA Commissioner is also canvassing the League’s owners to try and get a 75% majority which, under the NBA rules, could force Sterling to sell the team, though to complicate matters his wife is also part-owner of the team.

After paying just US$12.5 million for it in 1981, it is thought the bidding would start at over US$700 million and Sterling could end up with a much higher price, if indeed he has to sell it, as it has become a very profitable franchise under Sterling’s ownership. Celebrities David Geffen and Oprah Winfrey have been just two names already linked to a possible joint bid.

But for the super rich these things are not just about money, but sometimes also about not giving in to the hue and cry of the crowd, and David Sterling seems in no hurry to cash in on the publicity and take a big profit – which would after all be the positive way for him to look at it.

So after first trying to say nothing at all in reaction to the scandal, clearly hoping it would just go away by ignoring it, he first tried to wriggle by saying he was just trying to have sex with his girl-friend which is why he made the remarks. Now that hasn’t worked either, now he has now gone the full monty with the only thing left to put on the table, namely: contrition.

I doubt Sterling remembers that cartoon from the New Yorker about ethics, but now it seems Sterling is indeed ready to say he is truly, really, deeply sorry for his remarks, with his tongue doubtless firmly clenched between his teeth while he is saying it, given his apparent long history of previous racist remarks.

And of course the venue for this, soon-to-be-forthcoming, display of self-flagellation, we are told, will be live American television in an interview with Anderson Cooper – who is the primary anchor of the CNN news show Anderson Cooper 360°.

According to a promo for the show, which will aired later today, Donald Sterling now is quoted as saying to Cooper: “I’m a good member (Ed: of the NBA) who made a mistake and I’m apologizing and I’m asking for forgiveness.”

Sterling, also tells Cooper in the interview, we are told, “I’m not a racist.” And he continues in that vein, “I made a terrible mistake. I’m here to apologize, ” adding “Am I entitled to one mistake, am I after 35 years? I mean, I love my league, I love my partners. Am I entitled to one mistake? It’s a terrible mistake, and I’ll never do it again, ”

Sterling then grovels once more directly to the NBA, “If the owners feel I have another chance, then they’ll give it to me.”

Finally he also explains that he was “emotionally distraught” following the public leak of his conversation. He went on to say, “I caused the problem. I don’t know how to correct it.”

In another interview entirely we learn from Sterling’s wife of 50 years, Shelly Sterling, saying to ABC News’ Barbara Walters that when she gets around to it she will “eventually” divorce her husband. She also said to Walter of any decision to force a sale that she “will fight that decision” – in order to keep her own half share of the team.

So Sterling is now saying sorry as hard, and as often as he can, and his wife, the neglected and cheated woman, says effectively it has nothing to do with her anyway so she should not be penalised.

Finally, since this is America where the power of the confessional chamber has been taken away from the churches and placed instead in the hands of television interviewers, who knows? Redemption could still be at hand.

Like I said, the rich and powerful are different than you and me.



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