Donald Sterling and the Overblown Media Coverage

By Willis Patenaude

The saga of Donald Sterling continued as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver handed down a monumental set of punishments. Sterling has been banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million. The league will attempt to force him to sell the Los Angeles Clippers.

This all sounds amazing, until you realize how meaningless the punishments are. Sterling is 80 years old, so the ban will last about a decade, give or take a few years. He probably wastes more than $2.5 million at the clubs or on his “girlfriend,” the one who recorded the conversations that started the controversy and reminded most of us what we already knew: Sterling is a racist.

Also, since he owns the team, any sale means he profits and it will be a lot more than $2.5 million. The fine now looks ridiculous, as does all the coverage given to the story since it broke a few days ago. The incessant coverage of Sterling even makes CNN queasy and they’ve ran Flight 370 into the ground since it vanished along with Elvis. Not to mention, no punishment changes the fact that Sterling is still a racist, so what exactly was accomplished besides a one-sided wrist slap on an aging billionaire?

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said, “Thank You, Commissioner Silver for doing precisely what needed to be done. The message has been sent.”

What message is that exactly? Check your mistress for recording devices? Making Sterling reach for his pocket change wallet?

Once the punishment came down, the Twitterverse exploded, which should make people nauseous. No one is discounting the legitimacy of following the Sterling story or discussing it, but it’s turned into a modern version of yellow journalism as every pontificator plays armchair commissioner.

The problem with the Sterling coverage is it’s been overblown, meaning too much attention has been focused on a story that has very little affect on the average person’s daily life.

Those players still played and are still willingly accepting their obnoxious paychecks, signed by the racist. The story simply did not justify the amount of coverage it received across all platforms of news and social media.

This is an issue of a populace too obsessed with celebrity culture and fluff pieces. A story like Sterling is easy to digest and it fills people with misplaced venomous rage. It keeps them blind, like little sheep to actual issues because if you’re being honest, Sterling’s racism is not an issue worth devoting countless hours too. He’s not exactly breaking new ground on the issue. I’m convinced, based on the current obsession with celebrity, the Sterling story would get higher ratings than a modern day Holocaust.

As a country, most people don’t handle the hard issues that well, then again, that’s probably because everyone has their own individual soapbox via Twitter and live inside a belief-echo-chamber system. People have forgotten fundamental communication skills and how to politely disagree without reaching for an –ism to silence their opposition.

Put down the Molotov cocktail because I never said –isms don’t exist, merely people are too dependent on them to win arguments where an –ism was never warranted. We all suffer from paralysis by ignorance as politicians from both parties, lie, swindle, cheat and murder Americans in pointless overseas adventures while the rest of us blindly argue over a white guy who didn’t want his gold-digging mistress hanging around Magic Johnson. Only Sterling wasn’t as eloquent and, decidedly, far more racist.

It’s the strategy of divide and conquer. The media pushes a story that shouldn’t concern the average person. And a billionaire racist certainly doesn’t concern most of us. This distracts people from real issues. Instead of talking about how to end poverty, the wage gap or the possibility of World War 3, we argue about peripheral issues, like Sterling; a name most people had never even heard of until a week ago.

The Sterling story deserved attention, just not the endless attention it got. To quote Marilyn Manson, “we fed machines and then we prayed, puked up and down in morbid faith, you should have seen the ratings that day.”

Indeed, you should have seen the ratings that day.

Willis Patenaude is a New England Patriots writer for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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