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ESPN’s Jason Whitlock on D&C: Banning Donald Sterling ‘a blown opportunity’ for NBA to address culture issue

04.30.14 at 8:35 am ET
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ESPN columnist Jason Whitlock checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss his column questioning the NBA’s decision to issue a lifetime suspension to Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist comments. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Whitlock, who is black, wrote that removing Sterling from the league “solves nothing,” because it does not address the bigger issue of society’s culture problem.

“I don’t think my point is counter. I think it’s looking further down the line than the mob that ran Donald Sterling out of basketball was looking,” Whitlock said. “Listen, Donald Sterling put it on the table and addressed the culture that he felt had put pressure on him to be racist. I think addressing that culture that I think a lot of people think doesn’t exist that Donald Sterling has said does exist, I think that was important and a blown opportunity.

“I do think that a dangerous precedent has been set by taking this man’s private conversation and using it to run him out of basketball. I think that’s a dangerous, slippery slope. And if I think people were honest they would say that’s something that could blow back and burn all of us. Because I think in private we’re all capable — especially if we think we’ve been hurt in a relationship or at any time in any way hurt — we could all say stupid things said in private in the heat of the moment that if broadcast to the world would make us all look very stupid and ignorant.”

Whitlock noted that Sterling has come a long way since his early days of ownership.

“I disagree with removing the guy for life. And this is a big, complicated issue, but I look at Donald Sterling more objectively and I think more fairly than most,” Whitlock said. “The guy’s 80 years old. He has evolved and done the best that he can. He has a head coach/general manager that I think is maybe the highest-paid coach in the NBA, Doc Rivers, who is African-American, that he’s basically put in charge of his organization and is paid at the highest level.

“He’s got a team with Chris Paul, one of the biggest stars, and Blake Griffin, another one of the biggest stars. So, this guy has gone from ignoring his team, dealing with his organization in perhaps a bigoted fashion and has evolved from that to putting a good product on the court that is more fair to African-Americans. And he’s clearly done a few things that have pleased the Los Angeles NAACP enough for them to give him two lifetime achievement awards.”

Whitlock said we’re missing a great opportunity to continue this discussion by eliminating Sterling from the situation.

“I don’t agree with [Sterling’s comments]. It’s abhorrent and grotesque. But I just don’t think that he’s alone. And I don’t think that it means that somehow he must be removed from society, he can’t be a peer amongst us,” Whitlock said. “I just would have perhaps not given him a lifetime ban — a ban of five years. I would have tried to put some systems in place to help Donald Sterling and the Clippers organization evolve even further as it relates to diversity and opportunities for African-Americans rather than just removing him from society.

“Particularly, this was really unfair to take private conversations broadcasted publicly by TMZ and use those against him.”

Added Whitlock: “I felt like he was a pawn and a tool for people to look fair-minded and righteous and courageous. A lot of it’s baloney. Because if we really opened our eyes to what he said and what he put on the table for us to discuss and we’re all avoiding, I don’t think we’re so courageous. … I get the anger and I get why the mob gathered. But cooler heads should have prevailed and a more strategic approach should have been taken.”

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