An Ethiopian-born Israeli lawmaker slammed Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racists comments he allegedly made, including against black Jews in Israel, calling Sterling’s comments “pathetic and disgusting” and demanding his dismissal as team owner.
In a letter to National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver, MK Shimon Solomon demanded Silver “use all means at your disposal to extract justice for Mr. Sterling. Financial penalty is not punishment enough, certainly not when it comes to a man with wealth.”
In the April 28 letter, signed “A Black Jew from Israel,” Solomon, from the centrist Yesh Atid party, wrote that it hurt him particularly to hear of Sterling’s alleged racist comments on a day when Israel commemorates the victims of the Holocaust.
“As a Jew, as a citizen of a country founded on the ruins of racism in Europe, it hurt me to hear Mr. Sterling, especially on this painful day,” he wrote. “It is sad to see someone of the stature of Mr. Sterling, who instead of choosing to lead and influence to change and fight these incidents, chose to make racist statements, so pathetic and disgusting like the last uneducated person in society.”
The comments allegedly made by Sterling, who is Jewish, in a taped conversation with his former girlfriend V. Stiviano caused widespread protest in the US, drawing condemnations from top athletes and politicians, including President Barack Obama. Sterling is alleged to have scolded Stiviano for “associating with black people” and to have asked her to refrain from bringing blacks to his team’s games. He also allegedly said that in Israel, “the blacks are just treated like dogs.”
“Racism is a global problem,” Solomon stated in his letter to Silver, a copy of which was obtained by The Times of Israel. “Everywhere and in every society there are ‘weeds.’ But like grass, if you do not uproot it at the root — it expands and covers everything good.” Therefore, Solomon wrote, the responsibility is now the NBA’s to take a stand against racism.
“The dismissal of Sterling from his position as owner of the NBA team will send a message loud and clear: ‘NBA will not tolerate racism, and racism will not be tolerated. There are more important things than the game itself.’ This message will go all over the world, and is an important step in the war against racism in our global village,” Solomon wrote, signing the letter: “Sincerely, A Black Jew from Israel.”
Silver on Saturday said that the audio recording purportedly documenting Sterling’s comments, published first by gossip sites TMZ.com and Deadspin, is “truly offensive and disturbing.” But he rejected calls to sanction Sterling before the incident is fully investigated.
“All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy, which is why I’m not yet prepared to discuss any potential sanctions against Donald Sterling,” Silver, who is also Jewish, said at a press conference before a playoff game in Memphis. “We will, however, move extraordinarily quickly in our investigation.”
Solomon, 45, grew up in Bet Marya, a small village in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and came to Israel with his family when he was 10, surviving a dangerous and clandestine journey. Together with Yesh Atid’s other Ethiopian-born MK, Penina Tamanu-Shata, he has been among the chief activists in the Knesset against racism.