Despicable He… and She: Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano and the Color of Money

LA Clippers owners Donald and Rochelle Sterling
Donald and Rochelle Sterling

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you are familiar with the imploding universe of Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Most of the voices raised on the subject in social and traditional media have condemned Sterling for his racist views, and his spooky, self-involved, rich white guy perspective on the world. Nobody is really arguing that the man is anything except a blight on society. That’s a good thing. Phew.

Coverage around the recordings of a conversation between the 81-year-old Sterling and 31-year-old V. Stiviano, in which he admonishes her for posting photos of herself with African-Americans on social media, were fascinating. For starters, there was the news media’s classification of Stiviano as Sterling’s girlfriend, without even a touch of irony. I guess once the wife finds out about you, and sues you for fraud, your status is automatically upgraded from mistress to girlfriend.

Also interesting: When the story broke, I immediately wondered… Isn’t recording someone without his/her consent illegal in California? Granted I wasn’t particularly concerned about Donald Sterling getting duped right about then, but I did find it curious that this wasn’t discussed until DAYS afterward. Also no one in the media seemed too interested in speculating about who might have leaked the tapes. Would establishing that context simply have taken too long given our 24-hour news cycle?  Or was the story just too juicy to waste time questioning the motives of a potentially vengeful woman?

Sterling is a reprehensible bigot who deserves the shit storm raining down on him — that’s not the issue — but some bloggers and pundits wisely wonder about the slippery slope of personal thoughts, expressed privately and taped surreptitiously, bringing about personal ruin. It’s a fair question. It’s easy to support free speech when you agree with what the other guy is saying, but in our increasingly religiously and politically polarized society, can anyone be so certain he or she will never hold a view that’s considered repugnant by someone with power? Where does the right to privacy fit in here?

It’s always intriguing (in a train wreck kind of way) when someone educated, powerful and professionally successful has a view of the world that makes you wonder how he has managed to function in normal, polite society – let alone strike it rich. For example: Sterling’s narcissistic contention that he provides “food, and clothes, and cars, and houses” to his players.

“Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?”

Um, actually no one GIVES players those things. They hone their elite athletic talent over many years until they enter the NBA, where they receive huge flipping contracts dictated by the MARKET — not Donald Sterling. Then, they buy their own stuff with the money they’ve earned.

Isn’t it more accurate to say that thanks to their hard work and skills on the court, LA Clippers players have attracted fan dollars, which paid for the Bentleys, Rolls Royces and pricey condos that made it possible for Sterling to land the trophy girlfriend who ultimately brought him down?

You’re welcome.

One of the biggest head-scratchers in the Sterling fiasco is a blog post, About a “Girl” Who Refused to Just Shut up and Take Orders, by Dr. Peggy Drexler, described as an author, research psychologist and gender scholar.

(In the Sterling recordings, V. Stiviano wonders how a “scholar” like him can hold such narrow, prejudiced views. Sterling and Drexler are both scholars, huh? I’m thinking maybe there’s a new definition of “scholar” floating around I’m not familiar with…)

V. Stiviano
These glasses make me look smart, right?

Drexler seeks to paint Stiviano as part victim, part Norma Rae-style feminist. She is extremely generous in giving V.’s intentions the benefit of the doubt. When considering whether she’s a gold-digger, and/or a vindictive ex, Drexler’s message is, don’t judge! What’s more, given Sterling’s bullying (“I don’t want to change. If my girl can’t do what I want, I don’t want the girl”), she positions Stiviano’s alleged decision to record the conversation, then leak it to the press, as brave and powerful because she refused to “just shut up and take orders”.

“She used her voice and her power to shine a light on abhorrent behavior… Her actions have resulted in real change… What’s more, you could argue that the woman on the recording didn’t really set up the man on the recording; instead, she let events play out in a way that seemed quite characteristic for the Clippers owner.”

Well technically, I think she used STERLING’s voice to shed that light — but why quibble?

I agree, Donald Sterling made his bed and should have to lie in it — but to suggest that Stiviano is some sort of modern-day Robin Hood for racial equality is laughable, since she took her stand only AFTER accepting a bigot’s $1.8 million condo near Beverly Hills, and several luxury cars.

I am reminded of the old saying about clocks: even broken ones are right twice a day.

Let’s all be glad that Donald Sterling has been exposed as the racist jerk he is, and hope he’s bounced from the NBA as soon as possible. The league, and the nation, will be better for it. But let’s also not celebrate V. Stiviano as the next Rosa Parks.

Instead, let’s just hope her 15 minutes of fame are nearly up. Unfortunately, I’m already getting a faint whiff of (*groan*) reality TV in her future.

2 thoughts on “Despicable He… and She: Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano and the Color of Money

  1. What a great post! I stopped reading the Huff Po since Sue and I stopped writing for them, pretty disgusted at how the whole thing was run – and here is more gibberish they have no qualms publishing. This story is sleazy top to bottom and, if an angry wife hadn’t sued a mistress with a stupid name (it’s not her real name, in case anyone is wondering), this man’s racist behavior would have stayed within the confines of the League and a few thousands other people. Goes to show that jealousy and greed are at the root of most evils. Other than media-wavy and opportunist, I can’t think of any other adjectives to describe Ms. Stiviano.
    PS there is a pretty good article in the Business section of today NY Times on the whole matter.

  2. Well, thanks! And thanks for the NYT recommendation I will check it out. This weekend, I caught up on my Sports Illustrated reading and came across a one-page editorial by a writer who’d written a piece on Sterling 10+ years ago. The stuff Sterling did and said during the interview, and the things folks were saying about him even at that time, didn’t make it into that article because the guy’s editor didn’t think anyone would believe it. In fact, I think he said something like “Even if that info came from Sterling himself, you couldn’t get anyone to believe it it’s too awful”.

    I laughed at Stiviano’s suggestion to reporters that she’s really just like a platonic companion to Donald Sterling, although I can see how a guy like that might actually have to PAY people to be his friend…

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