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|What Donald Sterling's doing now is no laughing matter.|
If only that were true. The reality is that Campanis' firing fell in line with a larger axiom -- stupidity is a fireable offense. Snyder's dismissal proved something more complex. Coming on television visibly intoxicated is frowned upon, as are references to slavery, but neither is too severe. Do both at the same time, however, and you'll be looking for work. Campanis and Snyder were guilty of talking too much on national television. Each said something problematic, but neither said anything particularly evil. Black people are too stupid to manage a baseball team? Sounds like something one of my old math teachers would say. Football players are the progeny of uber-slaves? Sounds like what it was -- sauced-up banter. But black people aren't welcome on Donald Sterling's property? That's really jacked up. Discrimination in the housing market has been crippling to the attempts blacks and Latinos have made to empower themselves economically. The worst examples are in the sales market -- there's a wealth of urban economic evidence showing how the inability to buy homes has affected the black-white wealth gap -- but such behavior in the rental market is just as damaging. Consider that, frequently, moving to a fancy neighborhood like Beverly Hills provides the best chance a family has at placing its children in decent schools, something we all can agree is pretty important. People tend to think of the more annoying manifestations of racism, like how hard it can be for non-white people to get cabs in New York. But in the grand scheme, stuff like that is trivial. What Sterling is accused of is as real as penitentiary steel. But for some reason, that hasn't qualified as big news in most places. Sterling deserves to be raked over the coals for this. Judgment should be reserved on the suit the Department of Justice filed until a verdict or settlement has been reached. But he's already paid millions in the face of similar allegations. It's not Sterling's job to bring attention to his ethical transgressions. That's the job of the media. And as it relates to Sterling, we have dropped the ball. In American sports, issues of race are unavoidable. But when we turn our attention to those issues, we tend to do so in discussion of sensational topics. And we do so with little more than passing interest. We're more concerned with people saying stupid things, transgressions that even undeniable racists could criticize. People from every walk of life are entitled to slam someone for talking too much. In Sterling's case, we're confronted with racism in its most problematic form. And up until now, we've said very little. Many of us lent thousands of words to lambaste the Vikings' stripper party last season, but we've been silent on this? That doesn't mean we should campaign for Sterling to lose his team. But we should wonder what David Stern thinks of there being an owner in his league who seems to have some disturbing views about most of his players. We should ask Sterling what he thinks of his players. More than just talking about racism and debating whether it exists in a few situations, we should attack it directly, especially when it's so destructive and glaring. It was fun to laugh at Donald Sterling when he was a joke. Now that we know what he's up to when he's being serious, he deserves a lot more attention. Bomani Jones is a frequent contributor to Page 2. Tell him how you feel at email@example.com.