Just as there are patients the best surgeon can’t save, there are PR disasters that no amount of spin doctoring will rescue.
Such is the situation with LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano
TMZ has 9 minutes of audio that will cost the billionaire NBA franchise owner his reputation and perhaps his team.
While TMZ does not disclose the source of the audio – it would appear that Sterling’s girlfriend, V. Stiviano, recorded an argument she had with the ( much older) Sterling about posting pictures of herself with minorities – including crosstown LA Lakers icon, Magic Johnson.
Sterling must live in an irony-free world — because his (we presume former?) girlfriend is black and Mexican — and of course his team relies heavily on African American players and fans.
Among the things the tape on TMZ shows Sterling saying are:
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
— “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”
— “I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”
— “…Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”
Here is a short list of things Sterling should not do to defend himself:
* Claim he was taken out of context. The audio of nine minutes provides more than enough context
* Use the Marion Barry defense – claiming he was set up. (BTW – that didn’t work for Barry either)
* Check in to rehab and blame the booze – Sterling may well have been drunk but he will be hard pressed to convince anyone that alcohol made him say anything that he didn’t really believe
* Use the Daniel Snyder defense who has tried to shift attention to controversy over the Washington Redskins name by setting up a charitable foundation.
About the only thing Sterling can do is issue an apology (with no excuses) and then try to disappear for a long time and hope someone else screws up more colorfully to try to take the spotlight away.
Meanwhile he will have to worry not only about the reaction of his employees and fans — but also the league and fellow NBA owners — who may feel obliged to react. For precedent the NBA may look to Major League Baseball which essentially forced Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott to sell her team after making favorable statements regarding Adolf Hitler.
For the foreseeable future, you can count on mainstream and social media to pound Sterling – probably until he cashes out.