Donald Sterling – American Marketing/Media Manipulation 101


MJB speaking at police department training seminar.
MJB speaking at police department training seminar.

On Tuesday, April 29th, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life and fined $2.5 million dollars for comments he made concerning a picture of his girlfriend and Magic Johnson. Apparently the suspension and fine were needed to help “make things right” according to Andrew Silver, the new commissioner of the National Basketball Association.

Over that last 11 years via Other Awareness Project – 95% Guilt & Anger Free! presentations  – presentations where I ask, “Why do intelligent people STILL choose to categorize themselves into poorly defined “racial” groups – I have talked with various groups around the country about the continued manipulation of information by American mass media outlets and marketing agencies. My position has always been that the only reason any of this talk about racists and racism, etc. continues to dominate headlines is because certain people and organizations make more money with stories of hints of racism, than stories without racism angles. Even though there is nothing scientific, religious, or legal that supports the idea that people are divided into these “racial” groups, we still have to get subjected to nationwide blitzes of stories that only help cause further division.

This will be a little long, but as we go along, try to remember that because we have so many outlets for information today, ALL media companies are always looking for content – especially content that people will react to – for their articles, features, etc. Advertisers pay a lot of money to have their products & services shown on the channels that produce the greatest amount of return for their media purchases. Marketing 101.

In my opinion, the NBA and pretty much all major sports, have become less about the actual playing of the sport, and more about the selling of the sport and making the games more attractive to casual viewers, thereby making the product more attractive to potential advertisers. To be even more specific, they are looking to attract more advertisers in the consumer packed goods or consumer services sector. This is also Marketing 101 and not “wrong” or anything, just good business the way the game is played today. (Just watch any game and what commercials do you see? There are really only 3 types of commercials that come on during a sporting event: 1) Company A is trying to sell you something to eat. 2) Company B is trying to get you to sign up for their service. 3) NBA public service announcements where they tell you how great and involved the NBA is in your community. The NBA is your friend!)

Another topic I talk about in my OAP presentations is coalition building. Basically, I like to point out to my audiences that people have always made agreements and coalitions with other people throughout history. All people – and corporations for that matter – only make agreements and coalitions with other companies and people because they both hope to profit from the alliance.

Stopping short of calling it some sort of an alliance because I certainly  don’t know all the details, I’m suggesting that the NBA, Donald Sterling, TV stations, Marketing Agencies, NAACP and other organizations, all have an angle on making more money and/or better positioning themselves as leaders in the ‘”bringing people together” movement, while not really solving or bringing adequate resources to help reduce any social conditions whatsoever. Yes, we get a lot of marketing campaigns and press conference announcements out of these type of stories, but very little actual results.

So, in my opinion, the Donald Sterling’s “racist” comments story line dominating EVERYTHING on TV, is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Everyone makes more money by keeping racism in the news. First, by dividing people into arbitrary and completely unsupportable “racial” categories – which has run it’s course for now – then by creating false scenarios whereby organizations or products “magically” bring those same arbitrary and poorly defined “groups” back together again.

Now, let’s look at the components of the story and add just a little internet background research on the organizations and people involved:

1) Donald Sterling has purchased thousands of apartments primarily in Los Angeles over the past several decades. He also owns properties in Orange County, San Diego and Las Vegas and advertises heavily in the L.A. Times. Sterling bought the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team in 1981 for $12 million; Forbes now values the team at $430 million. Mr. Sterling’s net worth is estimated at $1.9 Billion. ( (He is also a lawyer)

2) Adam Silver, is an American lawyer and the commissioner of the National Basketball Association. He has held this post since February 1, 2014.On October 25, 2012, he was endorsed by David Stern to be the next NBA Commissioner when Stern announced that he would step down as of February 1, 2014. (

So already we have two lawyers involved in this big drama. two people who completely understand the value of words and their meanings and potential consequences, etc. (A little odd to me, but let’s continue.)

3) Once a struggling also-ran to other professional sports, the National Basketball Association is now a global money machine, thanks in large part to Stern’s leadership on labor relations, drug testing, team expansion and other issues. NBA revenues, which were $118 million for the 1982-83 season, hit $4.6 billion for the league’s 30 teams last year. (

4) U.S. agency revenue — covering all forms of marketing communications, including advertising, media, digital, marketing services, health care and public relations — totaled $35.6 billion in 2012. (

Total retail sales reached $1.1 trillion in 2012: $568 billion at grocery stores and $530 billion at food service and drinking establishments. (

Secretly Recorded Telephone Call

Admittedly, I haven’t followed this story minute by minute, nor do I plan on it, but I have heard segments of information while flipping through channels. To help round out my knowledge of what was said, I clicked on this link: Transcripts of the tape:

So it appears that the secretly recorded telephone conversation is between Donald Sterling & his then girlfriend. (I also read where there they are now broken up and there has been some litigation between them.)

So that no one tries to misconstrue my comments so they appear to be in support of what Donald Sterling said, from what I read, his comments are poorly supported and he could do with some classes on world history. I didn’t really pick up on anything as being mean, just misinformed. But in my opinion, a lot of people have that problem!

I’m not really hearing anything that appears to be criminal, or said with malicious intent, or where it has damaged anyone’s property but his own. He didn’t say he was making these comments on behalf of the LA Clipper organization. I’m not even sure any laws were broken. (Except possibly the illegal recording of a telephone call! California operates under the “two-party” consent law. ( A guy talking to his girlfriend about what he thinks in a secretly recorded conversation is pretty much a non-story…that is until the media gets a hold of it.

A media that NEEDS these stories so they can interject what they think and what they feel into the story so they can appear to be relevant to consumers AND attract more marketing dollars! I would also add an NBA that also NEEDS these kind of stories so they can appear to be relevant and on top of handling any cases of racism, or even cases of perceived racism for the American consumer. (Note: They use the word American when they are trying to show how united and one we all are. However, they use the arbitrary and undefined “racial” categories when they are trying to show how “diverse” they are. EX Eric Spolestra is the first Asian-American head coach in the NBA. (He was born in Evanston, IL)

So, this earth shattering story is released to the media on Saturday, and by Tuesday it has been played and replayed so much that Donald Sterling – a lawyer and the owner of the LA Clippers – is banned for life from the NBA and has to pay a $2.5 million dollar fine! All without the NBA owners even having a meeting! (4 days! That’s a pretty quick arraignment, trial and sentencing! How come people who have broken real laws and killed real people can’t get that kind of justice?) (Quick calculation shows that the fine is 0.013157% of Sterling’s estimated net worth)

Again, I’m not saying anyone was in agreement with anyone else, just showing they stand to profit or get better positioning from  blasting this story all over the news. Although, it is kind of convenient that EVERY station chose to run with it and it’s tidy that they can come to some resolution in 4 days. (If race & racism issues are this easy to handle, the NBA should get out of the basketball business entirely and focus on other issues.)

The NAACP, which was set to honor Donald Sterling as it’s Man of The Year, was so upset, even before proving that he is the guy on the tape, that they canceled his dinner. (But, they haven’t said yet when or if they plan on giving back any of his “racist” tainted money.)

In my limited involvement with the story I have heard a lot of celebrities and talking heads come out to denounce what Donald Sterling allegedly said in the tapes. And again, don’t get it twisted I am not in support of what he said. Any rational person would not be in agreement with the comments attributed to him. And that is EXACTLY where the NBA and the TV stations and the marketing types want you to be! Against race and racism, even though if you know anything about marketing or have spent anytime in an ad agency you will certainly know how just about everything that is bought and sold in this country is broken up into “racial” categories! Don’t believe it? Try talking to a marketing company about selling your new product. The very first question will be “What is the demographic info for your projected market?” BET is a “Black” channel for distribution of thoughts, ideas, and images to that audience. Univision is a “Hispanic” channel for distribution of thoughts, ideas, and images to that audience. Logo is a “Gay” channel for distribution of thoughts, ideas, and images to that audience, and on and on.

What has been accomplished?

Of course this is only my opinion, but in six months to a year from now you will be able to clearly see what the purpose of this non-story dominating the news headlines was all about. Adam Silver will have been established as the new powerful commissioner of the NBA. He will have also accomplished the main goal of why he was hired for the position in the first place, and that is to grow the revenues of the NBA. (I guess the NBA also gets to keep or decide what happens to the $2.5 million dollars as well!) Donald Sterling will still be a billionaire, probably even more so, after the sale of the Clippers to an ownership group made up of people, hand-picked by the NBA, that represents every still outdated and arbitrarily defined “racial” group. The every day marginal fan will love the NBA and buy the apparel even more so because they will feel that “our friend” the good ole NBA has done so much by correcting a “wrong” in our still evil society. The market will be flooded with more “diversity” programs that will seek to build communication bridges across great “racial” divides. And people will still go to bed hungry in the poorer neighborhoods around the country. So, nothing structurally will have changed, but everyone will feel better about themselves, until the next story is thrust upon us!

Michael James Brown is the writer /producer of ‘Other Awareness Project – 95% Guilt & Anger Free!‘ A now 11 year project that looks at why intelligent people – using current information – still call themselves arbitrary and poorly defined “racial” categories. Categories that are not supported by science, religion, or any legal systems. Categories that a person’s ancestors NEVER called themselves! Are we solving any problems – real or perceived – by continuing this dialogue along these lines? Previous career titles include: Marketing Operations Manager, Creative Services Manager, Director of Operations. In his spare time, Michael rides his motorcycle around to real cities, having real conversations with real people. He is already aware that the OAP presentations and topics do not fit the expected mold and therefore he will never be invited to speak on any national media shows! 🙂 ( (



Author: otherawarenessproject

Former Director of Operations for News America Marketing, former Marketing Operations Manager for ING Advisors, former Pre-Press manager for Deluxe Check Printers. Currently self-employed and serving on the boards of non-profits in Southern California.

3 thoughts on “Donald Sterling – American Marketing/Media Manipulation 101”

  1. Thanks for the thought-provoking insights Mike. I guess it still is about the all-mighty dollar huh? I appreciate your views. Interesting to see your predictions in 6 months. I’m sure you nailed each one. Just keep doing what you’re doing my friend. Blessings………. 🙂

  2. Well, it didn’t take six months to see what is going on here. On May 29th, 2014; exactly one month later, the Clippers are being sold to Steve Ballmer for $2 Billion dollars. (4x the amount for the most recent sale of an NBA franchise!)


    Steve Ballmer released a statement:

    “I will be honored to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.”

    “I love basketball.” “And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win — and win big — in Los Angeles. L.A. is one of the world’s great cities — a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness.” “I am confident that the Clippers will in the coming years become an even bigger part of the community.”

    In my opinion, he, along with the NBA are laying the foundation(s) for next year’s marketing campaign(s) to position the LA Clippers as the new “America’s Team,” and sell more Clipper merchandise. They have also set a new floor for the future sale of other NBA franchises…around the world.

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