10 Jaw-Dropping Instances of Racism in Professional Sports

It’s a field that supposedly sees no color, race or ethnicity, yet racism has reared its head in some pretty appalling ways.

Richie Incognito; Donald Sterling; Riley Cooper 
Richie Incognito; Donald Sterling; Riley Cooper  Lisa Blumenfield/Getty Images; Stephen Dunn/Getty Images; Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and, by association, the NBA are having one hell of a week.

TMZ released an audiotape of a man who sounds an awful lot like Sterling, expressing disgust over his girlfriend’s Instagram photos with black men. But this isn’t the first time that “sports” and “race” have collided in a media firestorm. Here’s a roundup of some equally disturbing incidents that demonstrate racism’s disturbing effect on sports.

1. Donald Sterling’s Lengthy Rap Sheet

If you thought this would be a recap of the Sterling audiotape incident that sparked this roundup, think again. The Clippers owner has a rap sheet a mile and a half long that’s filled with accusations of racism.

There was that complaint about his alleged use of the n-word. Also how he allegedly envisioned a basketball team filled with poor black Southerners who would be obedient to a white coach—and not to mention the lawsuits he incurred because of accusations that he discriminated against black and Latino tenants. Sterling is a repeat offender, and the audiotape released by TMZ is nothing short of a smoking gun.

2. Don Imus on Rutgers Women’s Basketball

During a time when everyone in the entire nation had their eyes fixated on their March Madness brackets, radio host Don Imus interrupted that trance when he described the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” on his radio program in 2007. He referenced Spike Lee’s iconic film Do the Right Thing when he suggested that the matchup between Rutgers’ “rough girls” and their opponents looked like a showdown of the “jigaboos versus the wannabes.”

To add insult to injury, Imus initially tried to justify his remarks by saying that hip-hop artists routinely use these phrases to describe African-American women. Critics descended on him with lightning speed, and Imus issued a statement of apology and was soon suspended. More important, the captain of the Rutgers women’s basketball team described how Imus’ comments had “stolen a moment of pure grace” from them.