Sportswire Jun 7 2024
CRANKY CLIPPER
If Donald Sterling's comments embarrassed NBA team owners, what will they think about an entire mini-series?


We don't watch a lot of new television series, but when we heard about Hulu's Clipped we decided to have a look. It's about the dysfunctional reign of billionaire Donald Sterling as owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, and it happens that ten years ago, back when we still had the time and inclination to write about public scandals as a subset of pulp, we touched on the subject. We used to watch a lot of NBA, but around then we drifted away from the sport and haven't watched it since. It wasn't a conscious decision, but looking back, the plantation mentality of league owners like Sterling may have had something to do with it

In short, Sterling is a billionaire real-estate mogul whose wealth insulated him from consequences that should have taken him down decades earlier. It was a woman that finally did him in. His misbehavior came out in the open when his (possibly non-sexual) mistress V. Stiviano shared an audio rant of Sterling haranguing her because she'd taken a photo with ex-basketball star Magic Johnson and posted it online. Sterling didn't want Stiviano—who's black and Mexican—seen in public with people of color, and didn't want her bringing black friends to Clippers games. It was a problematic and indefensible attitude, to say the least.

The audio clip revealed to the world what sports fans around L.A. (including us) had known for years—that the city's massive fanbase meant Sterling didn't need to spend money improving the team, he had little interest in winning, and held proprietary and retrograde views of black athletes. Sterling denied that his rant was racist, of course, and exhibited the moral outrage that is the default setting for people exposed for terrible views. In reality, he was like a walking, talking villain from a blaxploitation movie. If Pam Grier had burst through the door and karate chopped him to the floor nobody would have blinked.

Hulu has released two of the six episodes of Clipped. The show has a great tone, nudging up against farce though it's based on reality. Laurence Fishburne is excellent as Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, as is Cleopatra Coleman as Stiviano, but the showrunners' coup was in casting ex-Al Bundy portrayer Ed O'Neill as Sterling. He's pitch perfectas an elderly, insulated billionaire who constantly tells himself he's brilliant, yet refuses to understand that the reason things it was “okay” to say in the past are problematic now is because in the past the people he mistreated couldn't make their protests heard. They always hated it. Digital technology, the internet, and social media finally provided them a voice. Entire swaths of America are still refusing to adjust to this tipping of the scales toward a slightly more equal reality.

Clued in sports fans have always understood that Sterling's attitude is common among owners in the NBA (and NFL), but the revelations shocked casual fans and looked dangerous for the league's bottom line. Sterling's peers, driven by the instinct for self-protection and self-policing that keeps their clan out of congressional hearings, proactively drummed him out of their cosseted circle. Therefore the ending of Clipped is pre-written, but even so, we bet there are some amusing surprises in store. If you like sports, enjoy insider info on athletes, and can laugh at the absurd, then Clipped is good fun. It can't make NBA owners happy, but we're sure enjoying it.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 20
1967—Muhammad Ali Sentenced for Draft Evasion
Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was known as Cassius Clay before his conversion to Islam, is sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. In elucidating his opposition to serving, he uttered the now-famous phrase, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”
June 19
1953—The Rosenbergs Are Executed
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage related to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet spies, are executed at Sing Sing prison, in New York.
June 18
1928—Earhart Crosses Atlantic Ocean
American aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly in an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean, riding as a passenger in a plane piloted by Wilmer Stutz and maintained by Lou Gordon. Earhart would four years later go on to complete a trans-Atlantic flight as a pilot, leaving from Newfoundland and landing in Ireland, accomplishing the feat solo without a co-pilot or mechanic.
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