Donald Sterling controversy: 6 other moments of racism in modern sport

Countless sports figures are calling for action against Donald Sterling in light of racist comments attributed to the billionaire owner of the NBA's L.A. Clippers. CBC News takes a look at other episodes of racism in modern sport, and how the respective authorities dealt with them.

Donald Sterling controversy sparks calls for NBA to intervene

L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling is the subject of investigation after racist remarks attributed to him appeared online.

Countless basketball stars as well as the U.S. president are calling for action against Donald Sterling in light of racist comments attributed to the billionaire owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers.

The web site TMZ released an audio clip this past weekend that it said featured offensive language from Sterling. In the recording, a male voice questions his girlfriend's association with black people, specifically mentioning Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson by saying, "Don't bring him to my games, OK?"

The comments were met with widespread condemnation. In protest, Clippers players turned their jerseys inside out during a practice before their playoff game against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.

Current and former NBA stars, including LeBron James and Michael Jordan, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama, have urged NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to take swift action against Sterling if the allegations are true.

The National Basketball Association launched an investigation into the allegations and plans to hold a press conference on Tuesday.

Here's a look at other episodes of racism in modern sport, and how the respective authorities dealt with them.

L.A. Dodgers general manager Al Campanis

On April 6, 1987, as a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the colour barrier in baseball, the ABC News program Nightline interviewed Al Campanis, who had at one time played alongside Robinson.

At one point, Nightline host Ted Koppel asked Campanis, was then-general manager of the L.A. Dodgers, why there weren't more black managers and owners in baseball.

Campanis responded that blacks "may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager." When Koppel suggested this was racist stereotyping, Campanis said, "I don't say all of them, but they certainly are short… How many quarterbacks do you have, how many pitchers do you have, that are black? Same thing applies."

The comments ignited protests, and two days later, Campanis resigned.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker

A relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, John Rocker had a scorching fastball, but he was better known for his incendiary views on immigrants and gays, which he laid out in a controversial 1999 interview in Sports Illustrated.

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was known as much for his offensive comments about minorities as he was for his pitching skill. (John Zich/AFP/Getty Images)

Answering a question about whether he would ever play for a team in New York, Rocker said, "The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?"

Although Rocker later apologized for his comments, the league suspended him without pay for the first 28 games of the 2000 season, a penalty that was reduced to 14 after Rocker appealed.

Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott

Schott was one of the first women to own a major-league baseball team, but that achievement is obscured by a legacy of racist and otherwise offensive comments.

She was known for often using the N-word in reference to players on the team, and a lawsuit alleged that she refused to hire African-Americans (although she was cleared of any wrongdoing). In more than one instance, she also spoke favourably of Adolf Hitler. 

Major League Baseball investigated Schott's dealings on numerous occasions, suspending her for the 1993 season and then again between 1996 and 1998. Schott sold her controlling interest in the Reds in 1999, and died in 2004.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds coach John Vanbiesbrouck

A former NHL goalie, Vanbiesbrouck was the head coach and general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League in the early 2000s.

After the team lost a lopsided game, Vanbiesbrouck expressed his dissatisfaction to two players, singling out the performance of captain Trevor Daley, who is black.

In the midst of his outburst, Vanbiesbrouck referred to Daley several times using

the N-word.

After the incident became public, Vanbiesbrouck stepped down as head coach and general manager of the Greyhounds.

Chelsea captain John Terry

John Terry, left, of Chelsea, was fined and suspended for four games in 2012 for uttering racist remarks at an opposing player in 2011. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Soccer has a reputation for offensive conduct from players and fans alike. In 2011, Chelsea captain John Terry was accused of uttering a racial slur to an opponent, Anton Ferdinand, during a match against Queen's Park Rangers.

The investigation brought in the Metropolitan Police and became a national scandal.

Terry was stripped of his captaincy. In September 2012, Britain's Football Association fined him for £220,000 ($408,000 Cdn) and banned him for four matches. On Oct. 18, 2012, nearly a year after the incident, Terry apologized for the language he used on the field that day.

Miami Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito

The story of Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin is one of the darkest episodes in the history of the National Football League's Miami Dolphins, and perhaps, the league itself.

Miami Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito, left, was suspended from the team in 2013 after allegations he had racially and sexually taunted teammate Jonathan Martin, right. (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

In November 2013, Martin left the organization, saying he had been bullied by Incognito. According to an investigation of the Dolphins by lawyer Ted Wells, Incognito tormented the rookie Martin for two years with a combination of racist and sexual taunts.

The Dolphins suspended Incognito indefinitely for his alleged harassment of Martin in October 2013. Incognito spent some time in a psychiatric facility, and is currently a free agent.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?