While the media first attempted to lynch Donald Sterling for the bigoted comments that he made privately to his girlfriend, the Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban tried to slow down the lynching by warning against a slippery slope:
- “But at the same time, that’s a decision I make. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope. Again, there’s no excuse for his positions. There’s no excuse for what he said. There’s no excuse for anybody to support racism. There’s no place for it in our league, but there’s a very, very, very slippery slope.”
But Cuban quickly backed off from that position and seemed to be in favor of a forcible sale of the Mavericks until earlier this week, when Cuban created a firestorm by admitting that he, too, was prejudiced and bigoted in certain situations:
- “I know I’m prejudiced, and I know I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways. If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos, I’ll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.”
The lynch mob attacked Cuban for stigmatizing black kids in a hoodie and suggested that Cuban was laying the groundwork for cutting Donald Sterling some slack. But Cuban received some support from an unexpected source – Stephen A. Smith (a black journalist) from ESPN’s First Take.
Smith pointed out that Cuban, by giving both black and white examples, was not excusing racism, but rather was pointed out that “presentation matters.” According to Smith, people are going to treat you differently based on the way that you present yourself. Hoodies, tattoos, or pants halfway down your ass don’t give anyone a right to shoot you, but if you present yourself that way, don’t expect to be treated respectfully. (Some wag pointed out that Patriot coach Bill Belichick wears a hoodie and expects to be treated respectfully. I suspect that he would not generally be treated respectfully if he is not recognized as the Patriot coach.)
Cuban later apologized to the Trayvon Martin family for using the hoodie example, but other than regretting his example, he stood by his statement. On the next edition of First Take, white guy Skip Bayless opined that the apology was necessary and appropriate, while Smith doubled down to say that the clarification was nice, but the additional context was unnecessary.
I agree with Stephen A.’s point that presentation matters. Further, I have previously discussed how people will naturally profile. Racial profiling, however, is a special concern, and although it is scientifically almost impossible to stop, it is something that America needs to work to minimize.
With respect to the Donald Sterling matter, it seems that Cuban’s comments militate in favor of reconsidering the draconian sanctions proposed by NBA commish Adam Silver and there is nothing wrong with that. Reconsideration is always a good tack to take when dealing with a lynch mob.
P.S., Smith also made a distinction that I have previously made between racism and bigotry – i.e., racists feel superior while bigots strongly dislike. Based on this definition, Smith said that blacks and whites are both bigoted, but only whites are racists. I’m not sure that I agree that blacks can’t be racists, too, but in any event, those definitions seem to put Donald Sterling’s comments more into the bigoted category than the racist category.