‘Blackballed’: Call this Donald Sterling doc ‘The Last Dunce’
Worthwhile Quibi film chronicles the NBA and players’ response to racist remarks by Clippers owner
Hollywood couldn’t have created a more detestable villain than Donald Sterling.
Long before the real estate mogul turned owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was banned from the NBA after his racist comments were caught on tape in 2014, Sterling had exhibited a pattern of ugly, discriminatory actions through the years, as evidenced by the Justice Department accusing him of housing discrimination in 2006 (the case was settled when Sterling agreed to pay nearly $3 million) and a wrongful termination suit by former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor citing Sterling’s “plantation mentality.”
Still, everyone pretty much looked the other way until April of 2014, when TMZ obtained audio recordings of Sterling and his mistress, one V. Stiviano, in which Sterling ranted about Stiviano posting an Instagram photo of herself with Magic Johnson.
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” Sterling said. “You’re supposed to be a delicate white or delicate Latino girl. Too bad you can’t admire [Magic] privately.”
As for the players on the Clippers, Sterling said: “I support them and give them food and clothes and cars. … Who makes the game? Do I make the game or do they make the game?”
Answer: You didn’t make anything. You were just a rich a—— who bought a sports franchise. The players make the game.
Still. Even after Sterling’s heinous views were exposed, he might have been able to hang on and ride out the storm if not for the combined efforts of the Clippers and their coach, a certain superstar on another team and a newly minted NBA commissioner, all of whom refused to stand silent in the face of oppression. Sterling was the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the world is a better place for that.
In the timely documentary “Blackballed,” doled out by the new streaming service Quibi in a dozen episodes, none longer than 10 minutes, director Michael Jacobs does a brilliant job of revisiting the Sterling scandal in a rearview lens providing invaluable context.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers and former players such as Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan share their candid insights about finding themselves in the center of massive controversy not of their own making, just when the famously underachieving franchise was on the brink of doing something special.
“It was a s— show, man, to tell you the truth,” Chris Paul said.
To say the least.
“Blackballed” takes us through the ignominious history of the franchise, from its roots as the Buffalo Braves to the move west to San Diego to becoming the Los Angeles Clippers, derided by Sports Illustrated as “The Worst Franchise in Sports (And the Man Responsible),” that man being Donald Sterling, who had taken ownership of the team in 1981. Following decades of failure, the Clippers finally turned things around by drafting Blake Griffin in 2009 and dealing for Chris Paul in 2011. They finished 57-25 and first in the Pacific Division in the 2013-14 season and were in the midst of a first-round playoff series with the young and talented Golden State Warriors when “all hell broke out,” as Doc Rivers puts it.
The Sterling tapes went public. A media frenzy ensued, and the coach of the Clippers and the players were caught in the middle.
It’s heartbreaking to hear Matt Barnes recalling being suspended in high school for beating up a kid who spit on his sister and called her the N-word, and Chris Paul talking about playing in a high school game in North Carolina and hearing a racist taunt from the stands and saying, “I’ll never forget it.” Then, all these years later, the players hear the team owner invoking similarly ugly sentiments just as they’re on the brink of doing something special — and all of a sudden there’s enormous outside pressure for them to respond in dramatic fashion, perhaps even walking out in the middle of the playoffs.
Rivers tells of meeting with the team and saying, “My name is Glenn Rivers, I’m from Maywood, I’m black. If any of you think you’re more pissed than me, you gotta be f—— kidding … ” and telling them he’ll support whatever decision they make — but to keep in mind, they don’t play for Sterling, they play for one another. In the meantime, advertisers are fleeing the Clippers, LeBron James publicly implies he’ll stop playing if Sterling is allowed to remain, and Adam Silver, who has been NBA commissioner for all of three months, boldly and decisively eschews issuing a suspension or taking a wait-and-see approach and bans Sterling from the NBA for life.
Donald Sterling was a powerful, awful man who thought he was invincible, but he didn’t stand a chance against the forces of good people united at the right time.
Source : Richard Roeper Link