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The President's Corner
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April 29, 2014
Bob Butler
President of NABJ 

Bravo to the NBA for Decisive Action Against Donald Sterling

Bravo to the National Basketball Association for taking decisive action against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling but it does not solve the issue of racism that still exists in this country 50 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

The NBA banned Sterling from the league for life after the media released recorded comments he made disparaging African Americans.

Sterling was heard berating his Black and Hispanic girlfriend for posting pictures on her Instagram account with African Americans  -- specifically Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Dodger Matt Kemp. He asked her not to “broadcast” her socializing with African American men,  and not to bring them to Clippers games.

Sterling’s comments were horrendous to hear but, for many African Americans, the only surprise is that they were said out loud. We know racism is not dead. If you don’t believe me, just look at the social media comments following a news story that involves race. Anonymity prompts people to state their true opinions.

The United States is supposed to be in the era of a “post-racial society” where the election of President Barack Obama is continuously cited as the prime example of why discrimination is no longer a problem in this country.

African Americans continue to experience racism in the workplace, which is why NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor sued Sterling in 2009 for wrongful termination. We also experience it in housing, which is why the justice department sued Sterling for housing discrimination in 2009.

We experience it in the media, which is why various media companies are often under fire for news coverage that stereotypes -- or is otherwise unfair -- to African Americans and other people of color.

The media also has problems when it comes to the recruitment and talent development of diverse candidates. It's about media companies identifying, recruiting, hiring, acclimating, and fostering individuals whose success adds value and makes an immediate impact when it comes to better educating and informing the public. The struggle to do this can be seen in the results of NABJ's Diversity Census, which shows most television station news management staffs don’t reflect the demographics of their marketplaces. Just look at the new media startups that have a long way to go before they reflect the demographics of the nation. NABJ stands ready to assist any company that seriously wants to do better when it comes to understanding the moral imperative and business case for greater inclusiveness.

Those of us who want to work in the media are sometimes rejected because we are “not the right fit.” News managers often complain about being unable to find “qualified” minorities, we still have to be twice as good to get half the opportunity and those of us who work in newsrooms often have positive story suggestions about the Black community dismissed by managers.

The NBA took a bold step but it will not change the minds of those who think like Sterling. If anything this will make them more careful about what they say in public...except when they’re on social media.

Bob Butler
National Association of Black Journalists

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7/30/2014 » 8/3/2014
2014 NABJ Convention & Career Fair -- Boston, MA