Peter Leo: Sterling's good news: America's united in denouncing him


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Just when we thought Donald Sterling was fading from the news, he comes roaring back this week with an interview that enhances his already formidable credentials as a world-class racist.

Not a moment too soon, I say.

Yes, the man needs a little more work on the art of the apology. But why all the moral outrage? Let's face it, Mr. Sterling is the gift that keeps on giving.

Let us count the ways.

■ He has united the country. When was the last time practically everybody has agreed on anything?

■ He has lifted every American's self-esteem by demonstrating that he's a worse person than almost any of us.

■ And the addled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has performed a public service by distracting CNN from its obsession with that Malaysian airliner ("Day 70: Still missing!").

Because of him, the country has bridged the political, racial and every other divide for a few shining moments. It could be the first time we've had bipartisan agreement in Washington in more than a decade.

Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites, MSNBC and Fox News, ectomorphs and endomorphs, Steelers fans and Browns fans are united in their disapproval of Mr. Sterling.

The only exceptions are Mr. Sterling himself and a few other hard-core racists. I get the impression he can't even count on his wife's support.

The critics apparently include his girlfriend, the model citizen who blew his cover. Her crusade for racial justice, however, doesn't seem to include returning the man's Ferrari and Bentleys.

The beauty of the Sterling case is that it carries none of that annoying moral ambiguity. It's so clear-cut that we don't have to waste any time coming up with a position or supporting argument.

Even the dimmest among us can grasp that he's a vile racist. End of story. Would that all issues were so black and white, no pun intended.

The bad behavior crosses racial lines, which is another unifying factor in its own way.

The Los Angeles NAACP isn't looking too good for taking thousands of dollars from a man with a long history of discriminating against black and Hispanic families seeking housing. The L.A. chapter even gave Mr. Sterling a lifetime achievement award.

And the gal pal with the tape recorder is black and Hispanic. So no group in this unsavory tale can point a finger. Everybody looks bad, which is good. Is this what they mean by a post-racial society?

Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the former basketball great for the Los Angeles Lakers, wrote a terrific piece for Time magazine after the story broke. Here's his colorful take on the girlfriend:

"Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. 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."

This could be one of the great all-time critiques of journalism. There's been only one other downside for media types besides wet pants: the injuries sustained when cable news gasbags stumbled over each other to be out front in bravely decrying Mr. Sterling's unsubtle racism.

Pundits on the left and right have been in high dudgeon, which is where they normally are. But the Sterling case has made things awkward. It has forced these bitter adversaries to share the same dudgeon, although, as always, Al Sharpton gets the highest dudgeon, which is private.

As for us ordinary people, the Sterling spectacle has given everyone, even some felons, a chance to feel morally superior. This is not something that happens every day. We can all hold our heads high and say, "At least I'm not as bad as Donald Sterling!"

You could argue that the Clippers are the main beneficiary here. Having a racist owner has made the basketball team America's darling, and they get to get rid of him, too.

But the biggest winner has to be CNN, and not just for being freed to take a minute or two away from that missing plane.

CNN's Anderson Cooper landed the unwatchable interview with Mr. Sterling that was watched by millions. It was so awful that the only hope for the man at this point is an appointment with Dr. Phil -- without the wife and girlfriend, though.

Peter Leo of Squirrel Hill, a retired Post-Gazette columnist and occasional Portfolio contributor, can be reached at peterleo11@comcast.net.


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