(Original piece from the Boyle Heights Beat, May 20, 2014)
By Dan Gudino
It is rare when sports transcends itself into the front page of the paper. The large bold-faced headline goes to the politician, the war overseas, the murder, or even the latest celebrity gossip. The final score often does not matter.
But for the past month or so, a sports controversy has made top news, and for Boyle Heights, it’s been a whirlwind of shameful connections and discoveries.
The media frenzy began April 25, when the gossip website TMZ posted an audio recording of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling V. Stiviano, his former mistress, that she should not be photographed with black people and should not bring them to Clippers games.
The audio was allegedly recorded by Stiviano who then gave it to a few friends for “safekeeping.”
Here’s where all the Boyle Heights connections gather.
Donald Sterling and his estranged wife Rochelle Sterling, attended Roosevelt High School–Donald graduated in 1950 and Rochelle three years later in 1953. V. Stiviano, 31, formally know as Maria Vanessa Perez, was raised in Boyle Heights and also graduated from Roosevelt in 2000.
By now, you have heard your neighbor talk about the Sterling-Stiviano circus; your friends have posted countless related stories on Facebook– It’s basically old news.
But for those of us from Boyle Heights, it’s more than just sports “chisme,” it’s a bad representation of our community.
When listening to the initial recording of the racist comments, I initially felt angered at V. Stiviano and saddened for Sterling. Angered that privacy was broken. One should be allowed to speak on any subject on any level in the comfort of their home. We are dealing with an actual human right here.
But as I learned more about the contents of the recordings and the history that precedes Donald Sterling, I later found myself at anger again.
In 2003 Sterling was accused of being a slumlord. A discrimination suit was filed on behalf of 19 tenants from one of his Koreatown properties. Sterling was accused of mistreating and denying the availability of units to black and Hispanic families with kids. Sterling would not have allowed my family into one of his properties! Sterling went on to pay over $5 million to plaintiffs and attorney fees on that case.
This is the man raised in our Boyle Heights.
Since the recording surfaced, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million, banned him from the league and called for the sale of the team.
Shelly has said she is willing to fight the NBA for her part-ownership of the Clippers. However, that may not be the best route for the team. Shelly does not represent Boyle Heights in a nice light either.
In 2003 as Donald was being sued for housing discrimination, a video surfaced of her posing as a housing inspector to illegally enter an apartment. In 2004 a court deposition states, one of the Sterling property employees testified Shelly wanted “certain ethnic groups” evicted. The race-related incidents continued in the next few years, where Shelly was accused of racist comments against black and Latino tenants.
And then, we have V. Stiviano- also a bad representation of Boyle Heights. With a rap sheet of her own, including petty theft and DUI, Stiviano is currently being investigated for extortion.
This is a woman who changed her name because she felt she wasn’t fully accepted because of her race- black and Mexican. An education, hard work, and not trying to take advantage of anyone would help. In the recordings she tries hard to cause a reaction, and baits Sterling. Not defending either side here but bringing to the stage what a shame both sides have been in the public eye.
In March, Shelly filed a suit against Stiviano to take back all gifts Donald has given her, including a $1.8 million duplex, a red Ferrari, a black Bentley, and $240,000 in living expenses. The suit claims Stiviano “engages in conduct to target…seduce…cajole…and/or receive as gifts and transfers of wealth from wealthy older men.”
Sadly, I doubt this story is over. And many effects have surged from it. Just last week there were rumors that Donald Sterling’s college scholarship fund which he donates $5,000 annually would be renamed.
And to bring more shame to the already controversial story, Donald Sterling provoked even more outrage last week in a television interview. The 80-year-old man dug his own grave with stupid, ignorant, an unapologetic comments, including attacks against Magic Johnson, arguably one of L.A.’s most beloved persons.
Stop it already. Please. It’s bad enough Boyle Heights gets portrayed negatively in mainstream media, and now this?