Based in the Bay Area, Ian covers sports, immigration, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate, among others. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.
Donald Sterling's penalty is in: a lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine, the maximum league sanction, for the racist audio recording released last week. The NBA will also work to force him to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, the team he's owned since 1981.
It's a harsh punishment, no doubt. But let's not kid ourselves about the $2.5 million. Sterling, after all, is reportedly worth $1.9 billion. According to a 2013 Credit Suisse report on global wealth, the median American is worth $44,911. In other words, a $2.5 million fine for Sterling is like a $59 fine for that middle-of-the-road American.
A day after basketball player Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the country's big four pro sports, a DC lobbyist said he's working on legislation to keep gay players from ever following suit in the NFL.
Jack Burkman—whose lobbying firm, JM Burkman and Associates, pulled in $3.5 million last year—said he has garnered support for a bill that would ban gay football players from the professional ranks.
"We are losing our decency as a nation," Burkman said in a statement. "Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That's a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?"
Burkman said he came up with the idea after college football star Michael Sam came out as gay a few weeks ago. If drafted, Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL…
"If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it," Burkman said.
(No word on what Burkman thinks about the four gay NFL players who came out after their playing days were over: Dave Kopay, Esera Tuaolo, Wade Davis, and Rod Simmons, who died Thursday.)
Publicity stunt aside, this isn't the first time Burkman has weighed in on gay rights. In February 2013, he took to his Radio America show, Behind the Curtain With Jack Burkman, to discuss the softening of the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members, lamenting how the "establishment media push[es] everybody around, forcing us all to accept homosexuality as just something natural." He continued: "Ladies and gentleman, if you have a son in the Boy Scouts, get him out. Get him out now."
Burkman, onetime counsel to former Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.), is no stranger to controversy. In 2006, he went on MSNBC's Scarborough Country and said that "within hours of those towers going down," the wives of the 9/11 victims "were ready to make money and exploit this tragedy." Then, in 2007, he was linked to the DC Madam.
University of Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam shocked the sports world Sunday when he announced that he is gay. The National Football League has never had an openly gay player, and the timing of his announcement—just weeks before the league's so-called combine, when draft-eligible players like Sam are put through the paces in front of scouts and team executives—has been hailed as incredibly brave.
But as Kevin Drum noted Sunday night, a group of NFL front-office types had a different take. Severalteam executives anonymously questioned Sam's talent and pro prospects in a SI.com article published after his announcement. Sample line, from a personnel assistant: "I don't think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet. In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game." Worse still, some of them argued that teams would lower Sam on their draft boards, or not draft him at all, simply because he's gay.
Is that legal? Do state and local laws protect potential draftees from discrimination based on sexual orientation? And what about the NFL's own nondiscrimination policy? Here's a brief explainer: