ESPN the Magazine’s Peter Keating has a lenthy piece about the sordid details of Donald Sterling’s life. We’ve discussed the balancing act Clippers fans — and sports fans in general — have to perform as die-hards for their teams, and Keating’s piece will challenge some in the Naçión to confront the sublimation all of us engage in as we root on players (and by extension, owners) who might not be worthy of our support.
Much of Keating’s report on Sterling has been documented elsewhere, but the broad context in the article is strong, and the revelations indicting. Some of the lowlights:
When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to Davenport. “That’s because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they’re not clean,” he said, according to Davenport’s testimony. “And it’s because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day.” He added: “So we have to get them out of here.” Shortly after, construction work caused a serious leak at the complex. When Davenport surveyed the damage, she found an elderly woman, Kandynce Jones, wading through several inches of water in Apartment 121. Jones was paralyzed on the right side and legally blind. She took medication for high blood pressure and to thin a clot in her leg. Still, she was remarkably cheerful, showing Davenport pictures of her children, even as some of her belongings floated around her.
Jones had repeatedly walked to the apartment manager’s office to plead for assistance, according to sworn testimony given by her daughter Ebony Jones in the Housing Rights Center case. Kandynce Jones’ refrigerator dripped, her dishwasher was broken, and her apartment was always cold. Now it had flooded. Davenport reported what she saw to Sterling, and according to her testimony, he asked: “Is she one of those black people that stink?” When Davenport told Sterling that Jones wanted to be reimbursed for the water damage and compensated for her ruined property, he replied: “I am not going to do that. Just evict the bitch.”
…Sterling also uses his wealth and power like many other rich and powerful men: to impose his eccentricities on others. When dining out, Sterling has on occasion recommended meals for his guests without ordering anything for himself, forcing them to then share with him. He once invited a draft pick to his Beverly Hills mansion, then conducted the meeting wearing only a bathrobe. He also regularly makes large contributions to charities — like the Special Olympics — and then when the groups honor him, he takes out self-congratulatory newspaper ads. “Sterling desperately wants people to believe he’s a good person, and if they don’t, it drives him crazy,” says a lawyer who knows him. “But he also just can’t get out of his own way.”
In 2006, Sterling announced plans to build a sprawling homeless-services center in the midst of LA’s Skid Row. One newspaper ad for the project showed a vacant-eyed redheaded child, whom locals took to calling Zombie Girl. Another declared that the Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation would develop a “state-of-the-art $50 million dollar [sic]” project for “over 91,000 homeless people.” It featured a photo of a smiling Sterling above the quote “Please don’t forget the children, they need our help.” But while Sterling spent $8.4 million to buy several properties at Sixth and Wall streets, he has yet to move forward with his plans to help the homeless. Some advocates now believe that Sterling is waiting for them to foot the cost of the center. Others suspect he may never build it at all, and has bought the land, as he’s done so often, simply because he expected the area to gentrify and its value to rise.
But it’s the people who work for Sterling and live in his buildings who say they bear the worst of his unconventional behavior. For years he has run semianonymous ads (crude design jobs he reportedly mocks up himself) seeking “hostesses” for Clippers events and his private parties. In a Times ad last summer, Sterling’s company solicited “attractive females” to bring a résumé and photo to his address, where employees reviewed their looks. Some of the women who have gone through this process found it humiliating. “Working for Donald Sterling was the most demoralizing, dehumanizing experience of my life,” says a hostess from the 1990s who says she helped set up “cattle calls” to find other women to work the job. “He asked me for seminude photos and made it clear he wanted more. He is smart and clever but manipulative.”