Farabaugh: Sterling lacked lesson from Twyman
I feel badly for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
n Not because, during his ownership, the Clippers have posted just six winning records in 33 seasons;
n Not because his free speech was “violated.” Free speech is a non-issue in this story, despite some folks’ insistence to the contrary. He has every right to say whatever he wants, but there are repercussions for what we say and do.
n And not because his girlfriend recorded one of their conversations behind his back. To be sure, this was wrong – none of us would want everything we say to be recorded and out there for public consideration. But I have a hard time summoning any sympathy for Sterling on this point. You reap what you sow.
I feel bad for Sterling because he carries the burden of prejudice and discrimination.
Think for a moment what a burden this must be for him. To wake up every morning predisposed to thinking negative thoughts about others.
Feelings so strong that they caused Sterling to:
n tell the Clippers’ former general manager, Elgin Baylor, that he wanted to fill his team with “poor black boys from the South and a white head coach;”
n allegedly acknowledge that he didn’t like to rent any of the units at his more than 100 apartment buildings in the Los Angeles area to Hispanics because they “smoke, drink and just hang around the building;”
n refuse to rent any of his Beverly Hills properties to African-Americans. Sterling allegedly said that “black tenants smell and attract vermin;”
n tell his girlfriend that it bothers him that “you want to broadcast that you are associating with black people.”
What an oppressive weight for this 80-year-old billionaire to lug around – for decades. Imagine the negative energy he expends each day. Commodifying the players on his team. Implementing discriminatory housing policies. Fretting over who accompanies his former girlfriend to the Staples Center.
Perhaps even more disconcerting is the likelihood that Sterling has perpetuated his racist views. Within the field of psychiatry, almost all scholars and practitioners agree that racism is a learned behavior.
If racism is indeed learned, then how many others within Sterling’s circle of influence have been exposed to this insidious mindset? And how many of those individuals have learned bigotry and hate from Sterling and infected others in their families and peer groups?
The Donald Sterling story serves as a grim reminder that we do not live in a post-racial America. Indeed, we are not even close. But it is important – and at times such as these, comforting – to remember that there are also positive role models whose example we would do well to follow.
And we don’t even need to leave the NBA to find a prime example.
Last month, I published a book titled “An Unbreakable Bond: The Brotherhood of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman.”
The book chronicles the humanitarian role assumed by Twyman on behalf of Stokes, a 1955 graduate of St. Francis College.
Twyman was white, and Stokes was black. The two men were teammates with the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings).
Three seasons into his professional career, Stokes became paralyzed from the neck down following a freak accident in a game. He lived for 12 years following this accident – all under hospital care – until his death in 1970.
The costs of Stokes’ medical care during these dozen years were significant, and Twyman rushed to his aid, becoming Maurice’s legal guardian in order to make financial decisions on his behalf.
Twyman successfully sued the state of Ohio for worker’s compensation benefits for Stokes and organized numerous fundraising ventures to help cover his friend’s expenses.
Twyman was as creative as he was tireless in his efforts to raise money for Stokes’ bills. One example: He cut a deal with Fred DelGrosso, the founder and owner of DelGrosso Foods in Tipton. Twyman helped DelGrosso get his company’s spaghetti sauce into Cincinnati-area stores.
A portion of the profits from the first 700 cases of spaghetti sauce sold in the Cincinnati area went toward Stokes’ medical bills.
During this period when the Civil Rights Movement was only just beginning to generate some momentum, Twyman never wavered in his commitment to his friend.
Twyman’s behavior is something I believe all of us – even Donald Sterling – can and should learn from.
Pat Farabaugh is an assistant professor of communications at St. Francis University and former sports information director at the school. Orders for “An Unbreakable Bond” can be placed by calling 814-341-4678.