I woke up on Saturday morning to news that TMZ had obtained audio of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling then-girlfriend V. Stiviano—who’s African-American and Mexican—how upset he was that she was posting pictures with other African-Americans on Instagram. He went on to ask her not to bring any black friends to Clippers games.
I guess it’s not really “news.” As disgusting as Sterling’s comments are, they’re hardly shocking; he’s been making racist statements for years. Wale, a former athlete and reputed sports junkie, agrees:
— Wale Folarin (@Wale) April 26, 2014
“Varsity Blues,” the song Wale references in his tweet, speaks to the racist overtones of many professional sports outlets. Though the song is three years old (it appeared on 2011’s Eleven One Eleven Theory mixtape) it became “super relevant” again, as Wale put it, in the wake of Sterling’s wanton racism.
When Stiviano asked Sterling if he was aware that the Clippers’ roster is predominantly African-American, he talked about the players like they were animals who only thrive because he lets them:
I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?
It seems like Sterling’s taken the meaning of “owner” into Django Unchained territory. His words mirror one of the most cutting lyrics from “Varsity Blues”: “They don’t think you a nigga as long as you fill up they bleachers.”
The themes of “Varsity Blues” are not new territory. But as a black man, sports fan, and music lover, I find this song coming up in my mind over and over as the racism in pro sports continues to rear its head. “Varsity Blues” also shows that, for all the criticism he receives, Wale has some degree of social awareness. As a former athlete and a black man in the public eye, he has little choice.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery