Abdul-Jabbar on Sterling Reaction: 'Extreme Finger Wagging'

Image: Abdul-Jabbar on Sterling Reaction: 'Extreme Finger Wagging'

Tuesday, 29 Apr 2014 08:34 PM

By Joe Schaeffer

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NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says the feeding frenzy surrounding the Donald Sterling saga shows the United States has become enamored with a culture of "morally superior head shaking" at the expense of dealing with issues substantively.

In a column for Time magazine, Jabbar, an NBA superstar for 20 years for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, writes, "Moral outrage is exhausting. And dangerous. The whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging. Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking."

Though he supports the lifetime ban that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver imposed on the Los Angeles Clippers owner Tuesday, Jabbar is sharply critical in his column of the public's and media's eager rush to pillory Sterling for making shocking racial comments in a private conversation with his mistress, recorded without his knowledge, after they ignored more serious public wrongdoing by the real estate titan for years.

Jabbar points out that Sterling was sued by the Justice Department for housing discrimination against "blacks, Hispanics and families with children in his rentals" and was sued by Clippers executive Elgin Baylor for "employment discrimination based on age and race."

But it wasn't until his decades-younger extramarital girlfriend recorded him chastising her for associating with blacks in public that the outrage against Sterling erupted.

"And now the poor guy's girlfriend (undoubtedly ex-girlfriend now) is on tape cajoling him into revealing his racism. Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out," Jabbar writes.

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"She was like a sexy nanny playing 'pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.' She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.

"They caught big game on a slow news day, so they put his head on a pike, dubbed him Lord of the Flies, and danced around him whooping."

Jabbar also expressed serious concerns about the violation of Sterling's privacy.

"Shouldn't we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn't we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizens' privacy in such an un-American way?" he writes.

"The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn't steal the cake, but we're all gorging ourselves on it."

Jabbar also suggested that Sterling's girlfriend, model V. Stiviano, should be jailed for leaking the surreptitiously made tape.

The "caught big game" nature of the Sterling affair continues a run of such incidents in the sports world over the past 30 years.

While famous celebrities such as Mel Gibson and Paula Deen have seen their stars dim after having controversial racial remarks made public, the professional sports world during that time has been embroiled in at least five previous instances in which racial comments exploded into national phenomena:

The late Howard Cosell, famed Monday Night Football commentator, attracted a firestorm of criticism for calling a Washington Redskins wide receiver a "little monkey" during a 1983 telecast. Cosell left the MNF booth at the end of that season.

Aging Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis, who came up under general manager Branch Rickey, the man who integrated baseball with Jackie Robinson in 1947, saw his long career come to an immediate end in 1987 when he appeared on ABC's "Nightline" and confusedly compared black players' inability to acquire baseball managerial jobs with an inability to swim.

A clearly inebriated Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder saw his 12-year run on the hugely popular CBS football pregame show "The NFL Today" disintegrate when he gave an interview to a local Washington, D.C., television station in 1988 in which he said black athletes were dominating pro sports because of superior athletic genes developed from decades of breeding by white slave owners.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was haunted for the rest of his career by an interview he gave to Sports Illustrated in 1999 in which he was quoted as criticizing foreigners, homosexuals, and New York City.

And just last season, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was nationally lambasted for using the "N-word" during a drunken tirade at a Kenny Chesney concert that was caught on film. For weeks there was speculation that Cooper's NFL career was over.

Though he apologized repeatedly, many players and sports commentators felt Cooper could no longer go on playing in the league. However, he went on to have his most successful year as a pro and signed a new five-year deal with the Eagles in February.

Special: These Are the Deadliest Foods in America. Read This List.

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