Posted on May 5, 2014

Despite Racial Divides, Poll Finds Wide Support for Sterling’s Penalties

Marjorie Connelly, New York Times, May 2, 2014

As the fallout continues from the disclosure of racist remarks made by Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, a national New York Times/CBS News poll showed that while there is wide support for the actions taken by the N.B.A., there are deep racial divisions among basketball fans.

Sixty-five percent said the decision by Commissioner Adam Silver to bar Sterling from the league for life and fine him $2.5 million was an appropriate response to his racist comments, which were made public last weekend. Over all, 21 percent said the league had been too punitive and 10 percent considered Sterling’s penalty too lenient.

Six in 10 black fans think racist beliefs such as those expressed by Sterling are prevalent among team owners in professional sports; only 19 percent of white fans agree.


At the same time, the public regards race relations in the United States as generally good. Again, the views of whites and blacks diverge. Most whites, 60 percent, view race relations in a positive light. Blacks are evenly divided: 46 percent consider race relations good and an equal number say they are bad. {snip}

Some have contended that Sterling’s privacy had been invaded when the surreptitiously taped conversation was disclosed on the TMZ website. Most fans do not share that opinion. Over all, 54 percent said his punishment was acceptable, while 43 percent said he should not be punished for statements made in private. White fans were split: 48 percent said it was appropriate, 47 percent disagreed.


Two-thirds of black fans also consider it acceptable for Sterling to be penalized for his bigoted remarks made in private.

The N.B.A. announced Thursday that it was moving forward with the process to terminate Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers, which began in 1981. This action would be strongly supported by fans: 66 percent said Sterling should be forced to sell the team, while 29 percent disagreed.

Again, the intensity of opinion differed by race. Among black fans, 77 percent said Sterling should be compelled to sell the team; 59 percent of white fans agreed.


The nationwide poll was conducted using landlines and cellphones on April 30 and May 1 with 1,054 adults, of whom 534 said they followed professional basketball. For purposes of analysis, blacks were oversampled in this poll.


[Editor’s Note: Detailed poll results can be found here. Sixty-one percent of whites say Mr. Sterling’s punishment is “about right.” Seventy-five percent of blacks agree.]