No one is under any illusions about Donald T. Sterling, except for Donald T. Sterling. When Sterling looks in the mirror, he sees a pillar of his community, a savvy businessman, or something otherwise much more flattering than the amoral leatherette sack of bigotry, fatuous self-regard and spectacularly odious inability to see or treat other human beings as objects that have any sort of inherent dignity or worth that everyone else sees. Everyone knows this.
But what makes something like ESPN's soup to nuts 2009 Sterling expose—it's probably best to swap out soup and nuts for "persistent bigotry" and "unrelenting lecherousness," in this case—so very not-so-brave is the implicit knowledge that it doesn't matter. Sterling is forced to pay the largest housing discrimination settlement in Department of Justice history? He can afford it, and he'll pay it. Sterling is revealed again as a crass, vain exemplar of virtually every acquisitive, dehumanizing, multiply abusive ugliness in contemporary society? Because shamelessness comes with all that—and because his wealth makes him bulletproof to a depressing extent—he'll be fine. There's no disgracing a creature this graceless.
Which is different from saying that Sterling isn't a disgrace. He is a disgrace, every damn day, both to the NBA's brand and his fellow hominids. But because he cannot and will not be embarrassed, and because the NBA seems happy to allow him to continue blithely being his disgraceful self, Sterling seemingly isn't much bothered much by all that. His Clippers are winning, too, now, so he's happy. Surely, nothing good is happening when Donald Sterling is happy. Just as surely, nothing much seems to make Donald Sterling unhappy.
Which is not to say that you can't piss him off. Say you're one of the women with which Sterling cheats on his wife, for instance. This means you have sex with him, which, obviously sorry about that, tough break. But you also travel with the guy and such, for when he needs sex on the road or in his office or wherever. Earlier this week, Sports By Brooks noted that Alexandra Castro, a former Sterling mistress, even advised him on Clips-related matters, up to and including hiring Alvin Gentry as coach.
This sort of thing is in the public record, as opposed to merely on Sports By Brooks, because Sterling—who gave Castro a house in Beverly Hills during their three-year relationship—sued to get it back after they split up. This is what I mean by incapable of embarrassment. The fact that this insane behavior seems almost unsurprising in this context is what I meant by suggesting that Sterling being this way is old news.
But there is something surprising in all this, although you'll need to steel your stomach and click a link to The Smoking Gun. That link (this link) leads to a 14-page deposition that Sterling gave about his relationship with Castro for that case, back in 2003, and it is jaw-dropping. It's also mostly about how Sterling thinks about and treats women, so consider yourself warned on that one.
One quote from Sterling's testimony has entered the realm of Sterling-iana—he describes their relationship as "purely sex for money, money for sex, sex for money, money for sex." But the rest of it is so unbelievably and unnecessarily coarse as to be implausible, even by the most idiotic and debased of standards, which is the standard to which we ought to hold Donald Sterling. For instance:
The "sucking me" stuff was off-topic. It just sort of popped into his head, and seeing as he was under oath and being recorded, the billionaire owner of an NBA basketball team decided he might as well get it out there. This sort of thing continues throughout, as he lays out how loathsome he found the (this particular?) woman with which he regularly had sex for several years. This, too, is more or less off-topic, for instance:
Which sort of contextualizes things some, while also begging the question of whether Mike Tyson would've said the same thing about Sterling had he been confronted with this information. At which point Sterling continues to reveal some things Castro had told him, presumably in confidence, about her sex life and mentions—again effectively out of context—that he "only wears Armani suits." And then he rests his case.
It's very reasonable to assume that he's not even telling the truth here, by the way. The Sterling touch is that the lie he tells is uglier, and looks far worse on him, than just about any conceivable truth.