The Opinion Pages | OP-ED COLUMNIST
MAY 14, 2014
Charles M. Blow
The sheer volume of bile spewing from the mouth of the Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, is staggering. But just as awe-inducing, and stomach-churning, is the unrestrained breadth of its variety, which makes putting the offenses in order — if one were inclined to — nearly impossible.
But high on any list — on a par with the racism, sexism, misogyny, paternalistic plantation thinking and bias cloaked in benevolence — has to be Sterling’s attempt to AIDS-shame Magic Johnson. …
“What kind of guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then goes and catches H.I.V.? Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background.”
And there’s more:
“Here’s a man, I don’t know if I should say this, he acts so holy. He made love with every girl in every city in America, and he had AIDS, and when he had those AIDS, I went to my synagogue and I prayed for him. I hoped he could live and be well. I didn’t criticize him. I could have. Is he an example for children?”
This line of attack on Johnson is one of the most revolting things to come out of this whole revolting episode. It feeds into the ignorance about the disease itself and the stigma attached to it that is an enormous hindrance to bringing it more under control in this country.
Let’s start here: Contracting H.I.V. (or AIDS) is not evidence of a character defect.
It is simply a disease and should be treated as such. The way that so many people, like Sterling, seem to separate out and shun people with communicable diseases — particularly sex-related ones —is outrageous and mustn’t be tolerated and glossed over.
So, don’t shun people with sex-related communicable diseases. Your intolerance is intolerable. In fact, why aren’t you having sex with them right now? What kind of bigot are you? Look at Donald T. Sterling−he didn’t want people to think he was having sex with a woman who was also having sex with an HIV-infected man. Isn’t that the most disgusting thing you ever heard in your life? (Not the part about Donald getting Magic’s sloppy seconds −there’s nothing disgusting about that. Don’t even think about that. I mean, the disgusting part is about Sterling not wanting the public to think he’s getting Magic’s leftovers.)
… What we don’t need is a man of Sterling’s dubious motives and questionable character spreading pernicious misinformation and hurtful poison about a disease he seems to little understand.
Seriously, we live in an age that admires, above almost all else, slick professional marketing. And a big reason that Donald T. Sterling has so outraged the world is that he’s such an awful, amateurish marketer.
Look how horrible-looking his countless ads in the L.A. Times have been for decades. Sterling has poor taste and a giant ego and is unable to discern amateurism from professionalism as long as he’s the center of attention.
For example, as far as I can tell, Clippers owner Sterling is a man of similar personal character to the late Lakers owner, the universally admired Dr. Jerry Buss, two friends who did real estate business together. But Buss had the sense to pay to have Jerry West pick his team for him, while Sterling was content with the other 1960s Lakers living legend, Elgin Baylor. Sterling let Baylor run the Clippers for 22 years, finally dumping him when Elgin was older than Hillary would be when she’s running for re-election 2020. In contrast, Buss hired smart white guys like West, Mitch Kupchak, and Phil Jackson for his front office, while Sterling stood by the not-so-smart black guy Baylor, who sued him for racial discrimination when Sterling finally fired Baylor after 20 losing seasons.
Thus, Sterling just wings a lot of stuff on his own instead of bringing in expensive experts to do it for him in a way that will meet with media approbation. I joked about Sterling getting all of his public relations strategies from this blog, but the press loves slick PR campaigns.
Much of political campaign coverage these days consists of marketing criticism. PR is a common second career path for journalists, so modern journalists admire well-crafted PR campaigns, and are horrified by obvious miscues like not remembering you’ve agreed to do your first interview with Anderson Cooper before raising the touchy issue of the guilt of people like Magic who may well have killed other people with AIDS for his own pleasure.
That’s just poor PR. After such knowledge, what forgiveness?