I can’t help but give my two psychiatric cents regarding the drama between Donald Sterling and the NBA.

Donald Sterling made private racist comments to his friend V. Stiviano that became public. The NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, heard the racist comments and started the process to fine Sterling 2 1/2 million dollars, ban him from the NBA for life and force the sale of the Clippers. Sterling’s wife Shelly, played point guard, in conducting the sale. The suitors, all very, very rich gave their pitches and the winner was Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO who offered 2 Billion dollars. Just to put that 2000 million dollars in perspective — the total amount wagered when California Chrome ran in the Belmont Stakes was a mere 97 million.

So it’s all set, right? Steve Ballmer rewards the Sterlings with 2 Billion dollars (1500 million more than the highest price ever paid for an NBA team).

Wrong! Donald Sterling changes his mind. He feels his constitutional rights have been violated and he is now suing the NBA for a billion dollars and refusing to sell the team.

So why should a psychiatrist care one way or the other about all this drama?

I agree with Mark Cuban, a billionaire NBA owner and entrepreneur. He didn’t much like or agree with Donald Sterling’s racist comments, but felt that invading private thoughts and feelings and punishing them is wrong. If given the right to vote, he would have voted against taking the team away from Donald Sterling.

In psychotherapy, the basis of treatment is the ability to say and experience all sorts of feelings. No editing allowed! Anger. Hate. Love. Venom. Lust. All feelings are allowed. Acting on the feelings is not allowed! Without a safe harbor the process of psychotherapy can’t work.

Donald Sterling wasn’t in therapy, at least not with me, but he did make his racist comments in private.

Here’s my fantasy of the ultimate payoff.

Steve Ballmer immediately withdraws his offer. Players refuse to play for the Clippers. Fans refuse to pay one cent to fill the Sterlings pockets and the seats at Staples go empty on game day, and the Sterlings lose hundreds of millions of dollars in a protracted lawsuit with the NBA.

Donald Sterling can have all the private thoughts he wants. We just shouldn’t give him our money or our respect.

If he wants to make amends, let him donate a billion dollars to the LA school district.

Art Smukler is the award-winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

4 thoughts on “THE DONALD STERLING, NBA CIRCUS, A CHANCE FOR FANTASIES TO RUN WILD, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

  1. I am not at all certain, based on his subsequent actions and what I can only call his clinical ambivalence, that Sterling even knew what he was saying or appreciated the gravity of it. In the interview with Anderson Cooper, he contradicted himself many times – sometimes in the same sentence. He seemed confused, memory impaired, and a little disoriented. I think he has fairly obvious cognitive impairment.

    I suspect that his wife was right when she said he has dementia. Do we really want to punish a man who is ill like this ? He probably should not be running the Clippers, but I also think that perhaps, despite the odious nature of his comments, he deserves a little compassion too.


  2. Sorry, Art, but I disagree. They weren’t private thoughts. Sterling voiced them out loud, to the wrong person, in a phone call. As for the money, like any other businessman, Sterling bought the team cheap and now things have changed. Due to the Clippers’ recent success and their prime location … Los Angeles is a prime city for NBA marketing, there was a bidding war, and Steve Ballmer won.This doesn’t mean we are giving Sterling “our” money or our respect.

    This was not the first racist comment Sterling made. Many black players and coaches in the NBA were not at all surprised by them. Sterling and his wife need to go away. The NBA is not a psychiatrist’s office, it is a very public sport with intense media coverage. Your fantasy will not happen. NBA basketball teams are businesses. Sterling’s comments caused a furor, and the bottom line is money, as the rest of the NBA team owners, including Mark Cuban, know. Sterling is an embarrassment. And a racist who gets no sympathy from me.


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