By Dan Capawana, Media Relations Specialist, R&J Public Relations
Donald Sterling has never been known for being a caring, gentle human being but in the last month, he has become, arguably, the most hated man in America. (Seriously) In the past he has been widely considered a racist, facing multiple discrimination lawsuits and even some sexual harassment lawsuits. He has also maintained several relationships throughout his almost sixty year “marriage.” Like I said, not the type of guy you want at your dinner party.
On April 25, 2014, TMZ Sports released a recorded phone conversation between the Los Angeles Clippers owner and V. Stiviano, his alleged mistress. During the exchange, Sterling made racist remarks about photos Stiviano posted to Instagram, and told her to not bring black people to his Clippers games. Donald Sterling has experienced what we would call a public relations crisis.
Sterling was banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million, and practically all of his ties to the Clippers have been stripped. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has also made a move to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, which can happen if ¾ of NBA owners vote for him to do so.
Just when you thought Sterling couldn’t do any more damage… In his first public comments after his ban from the NBA, Sterling did an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN. This wasn’t a terrible idea, until he caused more harm than good by doing this interview. He did apologize, stating he was not a racist and asked for forgiveness. Simple enough, until he stated he was “baited” into making his racist comments. Then he began attacking Magic Johnson, claiming that he isn’t a good example for children while making insensitive remarks about his fight with HIV. Saving the best for last, Sterling also compared Jews to African Americans, saying, “Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people. And some of the African-Americans … they don’t want to help anybody.”
This interview made it pretty clear that Donald Sterling did not seek adequate crisis management counsel. In what should have been an interview full of apology and remorse, Sterling threw more gasoline on the fire surrounding his public catastrophe. Not only did he come off as insincere in his apology, he also readdressed what got him into trouble in the first place (Magic Johnson comments, racist remarks). When will Sterling learn? Probably never, seeing as he is now suing the NBA for $1 billion and claiming he will not go away without a fight.
Just a few weeks ago, Sterling’s wife Shelly reached an agreement with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, to sell the Clippers to him for $2 billion. It has been said that Sterling is going to fight this impending sale, so we will have to wait and see what happens next. My advice to Sterling would be to hire a smart public relations firm to represent him, although it just might be too late.