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2 Sure Things When The Owner Of Your Company Is Outed as a Racist...

By now you've heard the back-story making the rounds on Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers.  Sterling is long known to have issues surrounding race, and TMZ broke audio over the weekend of him waxing poetic to a girlfriend/mistress about his embarrassment when she posted pictures of herself on Instagram with black people, and asking her not to do that moving forward.

That's a problem in any workplace, but Sterling's NBA workforce is 90% black, as is the rest of the NBA. Being a racist is always bad for business, but in the NBA, it's especially toxic. Check out coverage of all the angles to the Sterling story here.

It's a nasty situation, but watching the coverage left me with two distinct impressions related to recruiting Sterling
and retention when ownership of any company has a reputation for racism:

1. Don't expect employees to jump ship automatically when it gets thrown in their face that their owner is a racist and they're part of demographic that racism is directed at.  There's lots of wondering about the Clippers team walking out in a form of a protest.  The problem with that is that they're all under contract, and they can't afford to risk having their contracts voided.  The coach of the team (Doc Rivers, also black) has the same problem. Millions of dollars on the line.  Walking out and taking a stand is much more difficult than it looks, and you can make an argument that's not the best way to go if real change is what the employee group truly wants.

2. Recruiting will never be successful once it's public knowledge that the organization is owned by a known and active racist.   Let's say your organization needs to recruit diverse candidates and your owner has been personally named in multiple EEOC lawsuits.  I'm recruiting the same pool of diversity you are - think I'm going to negatively recruit vs your company with that information?  Of course I am!  The Clippers are in a destination market that NBA free agents want to live and work in (LA), but they'll never land another free agent of any significance as long as Sterling is the owner.

The Sterling/Clippers situation is unusual, primarily due to the fact that the workforce in question has an average salary of 5 million per year and the majority of the workforce is in the demographic that's the subject of the hate.  Most times, racist managers hire people who look like them.  But the lessons hold true for a low ticket workforce that's "at-will" as well.  They've got economic realties that dicate they can't leave automatically, but once the exodus starts over time, recruiting will tighten if it's public knowledge that ownership - or leadership - has racist tendencies.

Most HR pros will look at the Sterling case and thank the man upstairs that no one cares enough to record select managers in their company "riffing" on race issues - or any issue that has legal exposure, for that matter. 

But the same recorder that was used on Sterling can (and has) been used by employees in the workplace to document racist views that emerged in lawsuits.  It's just not as public as Donald Sterling.


Ralph Naifeh

Hello Sir,

I would like to write an argument against your viewpoint and article.

I do not know what was discussed among the players and coaches on the LA Clippers, but here are some points I wish to propose.

1). Professional sports franchise Labor & Management relationship cannot but compared to mainstream labor/management relationships in the mainstream workforce.
2). It is my opinion that the LA Clippers players and coaches had no intention or thought of walking out in protest as you alluded toward in your discussion. (that would be the pedestrian or common thing to do, but this is not a typical labor union).
3). Recruiting should not be altered because this is a winning team, and an opportunity to play in the NBA. Your dialogue is better suited as a sports news or CNN-ish news reporting to create a story to fill airtime.
4) The present team is a collection of smart and talented NBA players playing for the LA CLippers and their fans, not for the idiot suspended owner.
5). Doc Rivers is respected throughout the basketball community, and I believe high praise for his management of a media firestorm in the course of such a highly volatile and despicable event. Players are playing for him, their families, and have no intention of risking their labor agreement.

I do not believe the Sterling event should affect future LA Clipper hiring, because he is subject to the NBA by-laws and the 29 owners. Sterling cannot affect the team or the league would take over management until his period is terminated in finality.

I just do not believe you can equate the management staff and player recruiting to brick & mortar workforce.

I believe Sterling did us all a favor by participating in the identifying of himself in a manner that brought his true attitude toward his players heritage. Now we can excise this cancer from the picture and we are less one more racist.

I have been the subject of extreme racism in childhood from age 6 through 15. Now in my 50s.

Thank you


Just hire the person that can best do the job. Diversity is code for percentages, giving some candidates the edge over others.


Diversity is code for percentages? You are the "obsolete man." If a population of a city/state/county is 50% one race/ethnicity, 30% another race/ethnicity, and 20% a combination of races/ethnicities, why shouldn't business and governments hire in proportion to that racial/ethnic mix? People have the right to see other like themselves where they shop, where they receive services and medical care, and in entities their taxed dollars fund.

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