Crisis Management : Donald Sterling edition

Photo Credit: The Washington Post
Photo Credit: The Washington Post

As you may have heard, Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has been under fire in the media lately regarding a leaked conversation between Sterling and his mistress, V. Stiviano, regarding a picture she posted on Instagram. Stiviano posted a picture posing with Magic Johnson and based on the audio recording, Sterling wasn’t too pleased that she was advertising her friendship/associations with black people. Long story short, Sterling is now accused of being a racist and has now banned from the NBA for life. There is also pressure on Sterling to sell the L.A. Clippers.

Recently V. Stiviano sat down with Barbara Walters for ABC News to state that Sterling is NOT a racist, enough though his conversation clearly implies otherwise. From her interview with Walters:

“I think Mr. Sterling is from a different generation than I am. I think he was brought up to believe these things … segregation, whites and blacks,” Stiviano said. “But through his actions he’s shown that he’s not a racist. He’s shown to be a very generous and kind man.”

It would appear that Stiviano is now playing both sides of the fence.  She wants to expose that Sterling made those remarks however she appears to try to salvage what ever relationship she has left with Donald Sterling.  V. Stiviano is now involved in a legal battle against Donald Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly Sterling.  Shelly Sterling also sat down with Walters for an interview.

Donald Sterling’s interview with CNN didn’t help with his image. In fact, it may have made things worst. Instead of apologizing for the remarks he made and clarify what he actually meant by the remarks, he went on to insult Magic Johnson personally and professionally. From the interview with Anderson Cooper:

“What kind of a guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV? Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about?” Sterling asked. “I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn’t do anything.”

Clearly Sterling hasn’t realize how successful of a businessman Johnson has been.  Johnson owns and invests in several businesses and has raised millions of dollars for charity so Sterling’s statements are based on false assumptions without supportive facts.  Now there is more fuel to the fire.  It is clear that Donald Sterling didn’t have proper media training prior to this CNN interview.  There were times were Sterling would talk over and louder than Cooper just to prove his point, which is something he also did in the audio recordings with V. Stiviano.

I also want to point out another issue with this situation that is a little unsettling.  According to TMZ, Johnson stated that Sterling is mad at the wrong person.  “He should point the anger at the young woman,” said Johnson.  

Everyone involved in this situation are adults are responsible for their own actions.  It is not clear who or how the audio conversation was released but that’s besides the point because it is now public.  The point that everyone SHOULD be focusing are the remarks that Donald Sterling made about black people.  Johnson may have meant to say that Donald Sterling should point his anger at the young woman IF he cannot find fault within himself or take full responsibility of what he said.  Sterling apologizes but then goes on claimed that he was “baited” into making the remarks he made on audio, pointing the finger at V. Stiviano.  He further escalated the situation by attacking Johnson, pointing the finger at Johnson.  Now it’s like Sterling is telling the world he apologizes if he offended anyone but he was tricked into saying those things and also Johnson does nothing for black people and should not be a role model because he had sex in every city and contracted AIDS.

At this point it would take some serious crisis management to get this situation under control.  My advice for Donald Sterling:

  • Release a statement apologizing for defaming Magic Johnson’s character during the CNN interview as he did not understood how involved Johnson is in the community and in business
  • Sterling should CLEARLY explain what he meant in his comments in the audio conversation with V. Stiviano, explaining how he thought he was “baited” into remarks
  • Sterling should sell the Los Angeles Clippers without being forced to sell as it will be hard for the public to continue to support the Clippers organization with a “racist” owner.  Many sponsors have already terminated their relationship with the Clippers organization because Sterling is still the owner.  Lose Sterling, potentially regain some of the sponsors that were lost.

What are you thoughts on Donald Sterling?  What else would you advise to Donald Sterling to salvage his image?



Author: Cassandra Williams

Public relations and marketing professional. Subscribe to share my journey to fulfilling my dreams as a marketing and public relations professional.

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