L.A. Jewish Community Condemns Clippers Owner

Sterling's generosity to local Jewish non-profits has not shielded him from harsh criticism.

Noah Smith
Noah Smith
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Donald Sterling.
Donald Sterling.Credit: AP
Noah Smith
Noah Smith

In the wake of the scandal surrounding the racist remarks attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner and real estate billionaire Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Jewish community has been scathing in its reaction.

Sterling grew up in the formerly Jewish Los Angeles enclave of Boyle Heights and has been a strong supporter of local non-profit organizations, including many related to the Jewish community. However, this has not shielded him from harsh criticism within the community, even from the organizations he has supported through his charitable foundation.

"The Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance are shocked by racist remarks attributed to Donald Sterling. We urge him to apologize," said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, founder and dean, and associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights group.

"There is no place in America for such bigoted comments. If these remarks are authenticated by the ongoing NBA investigation, then we will fully support any action taken by the commissioner," they said.

Some of the comments attributed to Sterling, which allegedly took place during a conversation with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, include him telling her to not bring black people to his games, to not post photos of herself with black people on Instagram, and a claim that "black people in Israel are treated like dogs." The Sterling family was engaged in prior pending legal action against Stiviano, accusing her of over $1.8 million in alleged embezzlement from Sterling.

"I find the alleged comments reprehensible," said Samara Hutman, executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

"As executive director of a museum dedicated to commemorating one of the darkest moments in human history and to teaching about the importance of speaking out against injustice and abuses of human dignity, I urge us all never to forget the tremendous effect and power of hateful words," she said.

"Every time a Jewish child hears of a synagogue being defaced, every time a child of color has to read a racist comment in her newspaper, every time a gay teenager sees a wedding or a funeral picketed, every time a young person with disabilities hears a thoughtless slur— our response should be the same: outrage on their behalf and sorrow on all of ours that despite overwhelming evidence of the costs of ignorance and prejudice we have not rid the world of this ugliness," she said.

Jewish Vocational Service of Los Angeles Board President Jim Hausberg and CEO Vivian Seigel were equally critical in their reaction to Sterling's comments.

"The alleged remarks made by Los Angeles Clippers Owner Donald Sterling in published reports are deplorable and indefensible. For over eighty years, Jewish Vocational Service Los Angeles has fought workplace discrimination on the basis of race, religion, disability and socioeconomic status. JVS has been a vocal advocate for the rights of all job seekers throughout decades of social and cultural change," they said.

"We are shocked and stunned by the blatant racism of these alleged remarks, particularly from Mr. Sterling, who has been a supporter of many non-profit organizations and understands the tragic consequences of discrimination and anti-Semitism," they said.

Beverly Hills' Temple of the Arts Rabbi David Baron conducted the funeral service for Sterling's 32-year old son, Scott, who died last year. Baron expressed a message of condemnation, based on the available facts, but also sympathy toward Sterling's wife as well as a hope that Sterling could change.

"If the comments are his, in full context, and without rushing to judgment, and the tapes have not been edited, then it is despicable and Judaism abhors that kind of sentiment," he said.

"My personal observation is that I feel terrible for his wife, Shelly. This is heaping more pain upon a deep wound that I think has not healed, I feel pain for her."

"If this is what it appears to be, [Sterling] needs to be corrected and healed. I believe human beings are capable of changing. He needs to embark on a journey towards healing this rift, in word and deed," he said.

Anti-Defamation League Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda F. Susskind, weighed in on the comments and added, "In Los Angeles, the most diverse major city in the country, we take as point of pride that our leaders – in business, in government and in the community – embrace and accept this diversity without bias or bigotry. Both are suggested in the shocking language attributed to Mr. Sterling. We hope he disavows both the language and the sentiment behind it."

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman called the comments "reprehensible" and added, "If the National Basketball Association’s investigation reveals that Mr. Sterling in fact made these racist and intolerant statements, we expect and anticipate a swift and forceful response."

As the scandal has played out in recent days, it has touched a nerve in the United States and attracted attention at the highest levels of society.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in the midst of a four-country Asian tour, called the statements "incredibly racist and offensive."

Reaction amongst former and current NBA players has been harsh as well, with current star LeBron James calling for Sterling's ouster, and current legends Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson expressing "complete outrage" and "hurt," respectively.

This scandal represents the first major public controversy for Adam Silver, who became NBA commissioner on 1 February of this year. The audio recording, originally published by celebrity gossip website TMZ, has not been independently verified for authenticity by Haaretz.

The NBA is expected to render a decision regarding any disciplinary action before this evening's Game 5 of the Clippers first round NBA playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.



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