Donald Sterling is still the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise, but not for long.
With the weight of the NBA and its commissioner Adam Silver coming down on Sterling — who is now banned from the league for life and could be forced to sell the team — others are scrambling to pick up the pieces in an effort to buy the Clippers.
Media powerhouse Oprah Winfrey, who slammed Sterling for maintaining a “plantation mentality” and for making racist comments, is reportedly interested in buying the team. And she is in talks with Oracle chief Larry Ellison media mogul David Geffen to make that happen. She also reportedly wants to own the Clippers without actually running the team.
Other celebrities, entertainers and athletes such as boxers Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya, Magic Johnson, Sean Combs, and Matt Damon have reportedly expressed an interest in ownership or part-ownership.
Certainly, Oprah could pull it off, and it would be a potent symbol to have an African-American own the Clippers, given the sad and troubling legacy of Donald Sterling. But why is it that whenever we hear about black folks who are interested in buying a team or some other big business move, they usually come from the entertainment world? In contrast, white owners typically are relative unknowns, obscure and anonymous people who made it rich in other ways. For example, Sterling is a real estate magnate and a former attorney, and in any case, no one was coming to the Staples Center to see him.
This is not to disrespect Ms. Winfrey — or other big name celebrities who would likely receive a lot of backing from financial institutions without the need to put much of their own money into this. But there are many black millionaires, entrepreneurs, business leaders and finance people out there who would fit the bill. And frankly, these anonymous individuals could use a break, while high-profile figures often are given the first shot.
Many are saying the Clippers have become America’s team. There are suggestions that the Clippers players themselves, even the fans, should band together and buy the team. Now that’s something you don’t see every day. Yet it is fitting, given the way the Clippers, other NBA teams, and supporters across the nation came together in a display of unity against Sterling’s record of racial discrimination these recent days.
Why not make the Clippers truly America’s team, where members of the public can become part owners?
One African-American has come up with an idea. Rob Wilson, who has been called “Hip Hop’s Financial Advisor” due to his work with entertainers and professional athletes, just created a crowdsourcing project to buy the Clippers. Those who support the project would become part owners of the team with voting power, similar to buying shares in a publicly trading company on the stock market. Moreover, Wilson believes that his plan would enable the public to benefit financially from a popular sport while also making a statement about how people should be treated. Could this represent a new trend in business practices?
“The world is much different than it was in 1981 when Mr. Sterling purchased the team,” said Wilson on his site, noting 1 million people could each give $500 to make this happen. “Major sports teams no longer need to be in the hands of a few wealthy individuals whose values are detached from those of its fans.” Meanwhile, theGrio attempted to contact Mr. Wilson for comment.
Spread the wealth and share the opportunity. Sorry Oprah, but multi-billionaires, celebrities and the usual suspects are not the only ones capable of buying a team. As for the fans, if you don’t like the way an awful NBA owner is running a team, why not band together and buy it yourself?
It’s definitely worth a shot.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove