May 2, 2014
Celtics owner ‘incensed’ by Sterling’s racist rant
Clippers’ top man gets lifetime ban
By Susie Davidson
Special to The Advocate
Boston Celtics co-owner Robert Epstein (above) has strongly condemned the racist comments by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.Boston Celtics co-owner Robert Epstein is among those outraged by recent racist comments attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling that have been roundly criticized by celebrities, former and current NBA players, and the public.
The comments prompted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to hand down a lifetime ban from league activities, as well as a $2.5 million fine, to Sterling on Tuesday. Silver said the league had confirmed that the audiotaped comments were made by Sterling and that he would encourage the league’s other team owners to force him sell the Clippers.
Epstein could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But in an interview with The Jewish Advocate on Monday, before the league announced its disciplinary action, Epstein strongly condemned the words that he had read. “As for the [racist] words themselves, I’m incensed, as anybody even remotely connected to the Boston Celtics would be,” he said. “Whether it is ownership, players, coaches, or our fans, we would totally reject those comments, or the kind of attitude that those comments reflect.”
Racist comments have resulted in a lifetime ban from NBA activities and a $2.5 million fine for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling (second from right, wearing glasses).Epstein, who said he does not know Sterling personally, also predicted a quick response from Silver, who succeeded fellow Jewish citizen David Stern as the league’s top man in February.
Epstein, along with his brother and Celtics co-investor David, is a partner in the real estate development firm The Abbey Group. The brothers – who, like Sterling, are Jewish – serve on several community boards, including that of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
“My brother feels the same way,” he said. “David would have no countenance with such remarks.”
Epstein’s wife Esta has served ADL New England for more than 25 years in various capacities that have most recently included board chair. She received the ADL’s 2010 Distinguished Community Service Award, given by ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, at the group’s national meeting that year at the Sheraton Boston. Epstein, noting that his wife is currently the national education chair, said she was in Washington, D.C., at the time of his interview with the Advocate. “She would be even more adamantly against it than me,” he noted.
The Clippers are now coached by former Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who is African-African. Rivers had publicly stated before Tuesday that he and his team were upset by the comments and that he believed they were made by Sterling.
Audio of the tirade in question, released April 27 on TMZ.com, depicted Sterling admonishing his mixed-raced girlfriend, V. Stiviano, for posting photos of herself with black athletes to Instagram. He further directed her not to bring black people to games.
But something that has not been as widely reported is that Sterling’s comments ventured into even murkier bigoted terrain, directing vitriol toward his own people, and their homeland. An April 28 Jewish Telegraphic Agency ( JTA) article reported the website Deadspin’s release of additional audio from the episode.
According to the JTA article, the man in the audio, who was identified as Sterling, called his viewpoints a reflection of the intrinsic “ways of the world.” For evidence, he alleged that black Jews in Israel were treated like dogs.
His girlfriend, to no avail, attempted to inject some perspective, telling Sterling that as a Jew, he should know not to promote discrimination, particularly because he should know that such racism resulted in the Holocaust.
Deadspin printed a transcript of that conversation. It reads, in part:
V: It’s like saying, “Let’s just persecute and kill all of the Jews.”
DS: Oh, it’s the same thing, right?
V: Isn’t it wrong? Wasn’t it wrong then? With the Holocaust? And you’re Jewish; you understand discrimination.
DS: You’re a mental case; you’re really a mental case. The Holocaust, we’re comparing with –
V: Racism! Discrimination.
DS: There’s no racism here. If you don’t want to be … walking … into a basketball game with a certain … person, is that racism?
As for Israel, there seemed, according to the printed transcript, to be complicit acknowledgment of mistreatment of blacks in Israel:
DS: It’s the world! You go to Israel, the blacks are just treated like dogs.
V: So, do you have to treat them like that, too?
DS: The white Jews, there’s white Jews and black Jews, do you understand?
V: And are the black Jews less than the white Jews?
DS: A hundred percent, fifty, a hundred percent.
V: And is that right?
DS: It isn’t a question – we don’t evaluate what’s right and wrong; we live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture.
Racist rants have been commonplace on the airwaves in recent days. Just two weeks ago, Frazier Glenn Miller, a former Grand Dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was charged with the murder of three in the shooting at a Jewish community center and retirement community in Overland Park, Kansas. He chanted “Heil Hitler” for the TV cameras as he was getting arrested.
The Washington Times reported the next day that Daniel Clevenger, the newly elected mayor of Marionville, Mo., said he shared some of Miller’s anti-Semitic viewpoints. “We’ve got a false economy and it’s … some of those corporations are run by Jews because the names are there,” Clevenger reportedly stated. The article also referenced a letter Clevenger allegedly sent 10 years earlier to The Aurora Advertiser: “I am a friend of Frazier Miller helping to spread his warnings,” he allegedly wrote, later adding, “The Jew-run medical industry has succeeded in destroying the United States’ workforce.” Clevenger went on to blame a “Jew-run, government-backed banking industry” for America becoming the world’s largest debtor nation.
As far as Sterling is concerned, most Clippers followers have condemned the comments. Many had the reaction of fan Tyler Berry, whose mother is African-American and was quoted by Los Angeles radio station KPCC as saying, “I was absolutely livid.” However, comedian Billy Crystal – who, in addition to arguably being the Clippers’ most famous fan, is Jewish – focused on the team’s playoff run and tweeted on his @BillyCrystal feed on April 27: “He may own the team but they belong to us. Go Clippers!”
As for team owners and personnel, Epstein’s words on Monday proved to be prophetic.
“I don’t on my own know who made those remarks, and we can only allow for the facts to come out and be verified,” he said. “And the NBA will determine that.”