Former Clipper On Sterling: 'He's Always Had A Bully Mentality'

Apr 28, 2014
Originally published on April 28, 2014 6:18 pm

Keyon Dooling, a former Los Angeles Clipper and founder of the Respect Foundation, discusses his time playing for the team under owner Donald Sterling. Sterling has come under fire for racially inflammatory comments he allegedly made.

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The same year that housing discrimination case was settled, Donald Sterling faced a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by long-time Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor. That case raised more disturbing allegations of racism. Baylor claimed Sterling had a plantation mentality. A jury ruled in Sterling's favor. So, for many in the NBA, these latest allegations don't come as a shock. Keyon Dooling played in the NBA for 13 years, including four with the Clippers. He was vice president of the NBA Players Association for six years. I asked him what Donald Sterling was like as an owner.

KEYON DOOLING: Yeah. I would think he was a very incredible businessman, but because you're a great businessman doesn't mean you're a great person. He's always had a bully mentality. You would feel his presence, more so than anything.

BLOCK: What do you mean by that?

DOOLING: Well, when he comes in a room, you have atmosphere changers, and some of those people can affect the room in a positive way and bring joy to a room and then there are some people who come in with all their intentions to intimidate and to control and to rub people the wrong way. And I would say he was the latter.

BLOCK: And would you say he treated the African-American members of the team any differently from the white members of the team?

DOOLING: No, I didn't seem him discriminating in a blunt way as far as, you know, talking to one, you know, race and not the other. But a lot of the things that he did was invisible, it's that thought process. And so, you know, to hear that kind of thought process, it just pulls the shed back so that we can know that these thought process existed, especially on high levels. And systematically it's not good for minorities, and what can we do to change that, because I believe with this economical impact, especially on the West Coast, shifting his thinking could really impact, you know, minorities for a positive. And so we want to start the dialogue so we can get to that point.

BLOCK: Have you listened to the audiotapes purportedly between Mr. Sterling and his girlfriend?

DOOLING: Yeah, I've listened to the ones that came out a few days ago and the new extended versions.

BLOCK: We hear Donald Sterling in that audiotape, allegedly, saying I don't hate anybody. I love the black people. I love everybody, he says.

DOOLING: Yeah. And, you know, listen, there's layers to it. My interpretation is he said that, you know, you can do whatever you want to - you can sleep with them, you can, you know, have fun with them, you can spend time with them every day but don't promote them.

BLOCK: Yeah, he's apparently saying to this girlfriend, allegedly, do whatever you want in private. Just don't put it on your Instagram account. Don't bring it out in public or I'm going to get phone calls about it.

DOOLING: Especially Magic Johnson. I mean, to have Magic on the level where he's, you know, kind of created a half a billion dollars of wealth and put so many people in urban developments back to work and fought HIV and owns a sports franchise - to not see him as an equal, to see him as inferior, you know, wow, you know, if Magic is inferior, man, you know, all of us are to him.

BLOCK: Mr. Dooling, what do you think should happen to Donald Sterling? What should the league do?

DOOLING: Well, I think, first of all, they should investigate. Obviously, he has been a problem for a while. I do believe that he deserves due process, but with that due process comes responsibility and accountability. And so one thing, for me, I would like to see him to be reeducated, to shift that thinking so we can lift some people of minorities up so that not only Los Angeles can be better but our country could continue to advance. And then, two, I think he should sell the team. Because it's bad for the brand and the people, our fans don't like it, our sponsors don't like it, the other owners don't like it, the NBA doesn't like it, the NBA Players Association doesn't like it, my grandmothers and uncles and cousins - and nobody likes it. So, something has to be done, but with process because you don't want to miss any steps.

BLOCK: Do you think if Donald Sterling does remain the owner of the L.A. Clippers, do you think players will want to join that team? Does it taint the team and the viability going forward?

DOOLING: So, for me, you know, if I was a player still currently, you know, and I had a contract, I would work out my contract. I don't play for owners. I play for my family. I play to make money. I play for the fans. I play, you know, for my coach and the staff. Like, you don't play for the person who owns the team. You do this for your family. He's not the source. He's just a resource. And so if I was a free agent and I had an opportunity to choose where I was going to go, there would be no way that I would go and play for Donald Sterling knowing that he thinks of me in the way that he does.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Dooling, we appreciate you talking with us. Thanks so much.

DOOLING: Well, thank you for having me.

BLOCK: Keyon Dooling played with the Los Angeles Clippers for four years. He's now retired from the NBA. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.