Thursday, November 12, 2009

Racist Landlords and the NBA

Today Trina Chiasson of YouthNoise Play City posted an excellent piece on her organization's blog about race-based housing discrimination, encouraging folks to sign our petition which demands that the NBA condemn racist housing discrimination and discipline Donald Sterling.

YouthNoise Play City is a nonprofit that promotes sports for social change.

Thanks Trina for letting us repost!

Racist Landlords and the NBA
by Trina Chiasson
YouthNoise Play City

Yesterday a California renters' rights organization, Tenants Together, launched a new campaign called NBA: Show You Care.

Their goal? To prompt the NBA to discipline LA Clippers owner and big-time landlord Donald Sterling for his willful engagement in housing discrimination. A Tenants Together press release said this:
According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Sterling “Engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminating on the basis of race, national Origin, and family status.” The DOJ stated that Sterling “refused to rent to African Americans” and that his conduct was willful.
Indeed, Sterling was forced to pay a whopping $2.725 million in the largest housing discrimination settlement to date. But even this sizable chunk of change isn't enough to compensate for the damages caused by many years of racial discrimination and unlawful activity in the housing market. Many would like to see further discipline for Sterling's actions. Many would like to see the NBA acknowledge and take action to address racism within its ranks.

Political sportswriter Dave Zirin added: "Court testimony claimed that Sterling had said he did not like to rent to Hispanics because "Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building." Witnesses testified that he also said, "Black tenants smell and attract vermin."

Woah. Is this really the type of leadership that we want to see in the NBA? I sure hope not.

Housing discrimination is insidious and largely invisible to enforcement agencies. Most people of color won't start a lawsuit after experiencing housing discrimination on a personal level. It's expensive and difficult to prove. If you're renting, you probably don't have the cash to hire a lawyer or the time to research tenants' rights. Most folks will just silently wonder: Is it just me? Is it a personal fault? Is it my credit score? My references? But then there's that nagging question: Or could it be the color of my skin?

How could one possibly know the precise motives behind an isolated decision to deny housing to a family or an individual? Generally, you don't know. That's why Sterling's case required a major lawsuit to look into broad demographic information and testimonials over a period of years. When lawsuits like this actually come to fruition, you know that there's something very wrong.

I'm hoping that this case involving a high-profile NBA team owner will serve as a warning to landlords all over the country that housing discrimination won't be tolerated. I'm also hoping that the NBA will step up its game and start a dialogue about how the organization plans to address racism in sports and beyond.

In the meantime, there's a petition that you can sign over at NBA: Show You Care "to urge the NBA to condemn racist housing discrimination and discipline Donald Sterling."

Go ahead; sign it.

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