He was born Donald Tokowitz in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles, where for many years Jews and blacks and Latinos lived together in harmony far from affluent Beverly Hills and Hancock Park.
He married Rochelle Stein and together they changed their name from Tokowitz to Sterling, saying that it would help them in business.
I would invoke an old saying I used to hear that you can take a person out of the ghetto but you can’t take the ghetto out of the person but that would be unfair association for everyone else who grew up in a ghetto, including my relatives in Poland.
So Donald Tokowitz was a hater from the beginning, a self-loathing Jew who wanted to associate with the white establishment living in the more expensive parts of Los Angeles. How he got Sterling from Tokowitz is beyond me. Usually there is some connection between the original name and the modern westernized version but in this case Donald and Shelly tried to sound as WASPy as they could.
If you are getting the impression that this is a man who I despise, you are correct, and this hate affair did not start just recently when the rest of the world discovered what an imbecile Donald Sterling is.
I’m an original Los Angeles Clippers season ticket holder, going back to 1984 when the San Diego Clippers moved to Los Angeles.
Tokowitz went to law school but in those days it was difficult for Jewish lawyers to get into prestigious firms and somehow the name change didn’t fool anyone, so Sterling did divorce and personal injury cases and earned enough to buy a building in Beverly Hills.
He built up a fortune in real estate and bought the Clippers for $12.5 million even though he knew absolutely nothing about basketball. He became, according to the New York Times and Forbes magazine, the “worst owner in all of sports”, putting together the worst won-lost record including basketball, baseball, football, and hockey.
At the same time, he tried to evict people of color from his buildings, describing black tenants as “stinking and breeding vermin”. This is a matter of court records as the sterling Sterling’s paid a huge fine and were ordered to clean up their act.
Unfortunately, nobody was making him clean up his act as a basketball owner. Sterling figured out early that he could make a fortune with a bad team and didn’t feel compelled to pay top dollar for the best players and coaches.
My son Michael Damski and a close friend started a blog a few years ago entitled Fire Sterling, which was mostly about what a horrible owner the man is.
Now the world knows what a horrible person he is as well.
Sterling was caught on tape exhorting his young “friend” V. Stiviano that she shouldn’t be seen in public with Magic Johnson, one of the most popular and iconic figures in the Los Angeles sports world.
Stiviano was involved in a lawsuit with Shelly Sterling, who was suing Stiviano for the return of a $1.8-million Los Angeles duplex as well as a Ferrari, two Bentleys, and a Range Rover she said her estranged husband bought for Stiviano.
In the continuing soap opera that has been played out in the media in the last few weeks, Stiviano told Barbara Walters that she and Sterling were just friends. Maybe I’m just a bit cynical but it’s amazing how much the price of friendship has gone up lately.
Also, there is an enormous irony in that Stiviano grew up in the same Boyle Heights neighborhood and attended the same high school, Roosevelt, as Sterling and is part black and part Mexican-American, yet he was caught on tape saying it was okay for her to sleep with black people, but she shouldn’t be photographed with the likes of Magic Johnson.
Sterling is now banned from attending games which is wonderful for me because I sit across the court and I no longer have to see him slouched on his court side seat mocking his players. Baron Davis, UCLA star, recently retired, said he hated playing for the Clippers because Sterling would constantly raze him if he didn’t like the way he was playing.
We all love the American Dream because a person can rise up from poverty and become a monumental success but unfortunately class doesn’t come along with wealth.
In fact, it’s amazing to me that Sterling can be so stupid in so many other ways. In his interview with Anderson Cooper, he said he apologized for what he said, but what was clear is that he was saying he was sorry that his true self was revealed to the whole world.
He then went on to say to Cooper that Magic Johnson was a poor role model to kids because he caught and conquered the AIDS virus and of course that became the most prominent sound bite from the interview.
You would think at some point the Sterlings would try to make a hasty retreat into obscurity and cut their losses but they have laid down the gauntlet and this is likely to end up in a very messy court case because it’s not easy to force someone to sell their business, even though the Clippers are a franchise of a league with strict covenants.
One thing is pretty certain, if the Sterlings still own the Clippers when it’s time to start the 2014-15 season, there is likely to be a huge boycott of players, home and away. Michael Damski was on sports radio this week saying if Sterling still owns the team on opening night of next season, he will no longer be a fan and he speaks for many of us.
Perhaps the cruelest irony of all is that the more publicity this gets, the price tag just goes up as people from Magic Johnson to Oprah Winfrey to Matt Damon say they are interested in paying half a billion or more to buy the team, meaning the Tokowitz-Sterling dynasty will be able to keep it’s dirty business afloat in a sea of infamy.