Leave it to the Clippers. Leave it to Donald Sterling. Sometimes this franchise, and their controversial owner, can’t seem to get out of their own respective ways.
In Sunday’s edition of the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers took out a full page ad announcing their celebration of Black History Month. The team planned to celebrate Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets, and the ad allowed for admittance of 1,000 underprivileged children, and their parents, to the game. But, as well intentioned as it might be, the event missed the mark in so many ways.
The first problem that comes to mind is the timing of the event. Black History Month, as it has been since it’s 1976 inception, is celebrated in February. The Clippers decided it was prudent to celebrate in March instead. To be fair, they only played two home games during the month of February, thanks to the NBA All Star Game and the Grammy Awards. And those two games were against Chicago and Boston, two of the higher-demand games on the schedule. But still, the choice to hold off on this event until March either shows a severe lack of planning (perhaps they didn’t schedule the event until the tickets were already sold for those two games), or that they deliberately chose money over principle. Most people wouldn’t blame them for the latter, but then why do the promo at all?
The second issue with the ad is the ambiguous, and even offensive nature of the wording. How is it to be determined that a child is “underprivileged?” Does he or she need to provide income documentation? Would each child be judged based on his clothes, or the mode of transportation in which he arrived? Or perhaps it would simply be by the color of his skin?
The term “underprivileged” is not offensive in and of itself, but when it is used in a way that generalizes an entire race, problems begin to arise. Does Donald Sterling assume that all African Americans are underprivileged? And in turn, that all underprivileged kids come from African American families? The correlation between underprivileged kids and African Americans in general is an offensive characterization. The wording is at best ignorant and thoughtless, and at worst malicious and racist. There is no definitive answer to where the truth lies, but considering the source, public sentiment will likely trend toward the latter.
Sterling, whose picture is included on the left side of the ad, is the same man that paid out a record $2.73 million to resolve charges of housing discrimination on racial grounds. He is the same man that is currently facing a lawsuit from former Clippers GM Elgin Baylor claiming racism and ageism as reasons for dismissal from the position. Controversy follows Sterling, and it often involves issues of race.
Unfortunately, this particular ad took a potentially positive celebration, and made it swing into the negative. When will Donald Sterling learn?