What’s in a name, after all?

Donald Sterling has been in the news for his bigoted remarks to his girlfriend at that time. All of the emphasis has been on his language. Let’s examine other aspects of his character.

I don’t recall seeing a photo of his wife with him at the Clippers’ basketball games. Plenty of young, attractive women were prominently shown surrounding Sterling. Sterling has a history as a slumlord, being sued many times. He has prevailed in some – others were settled out of court with sealed documents.

Sterling's parents, Susan and Mickey Tokowitz, were Jewish immigrants. Born Donald Tokowitz in 1933, Sterling grew up in the low-income neighborhood of Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles. He attended public schools and eventually Southwestern Law School, which he paid for by working as a salesman at a furniture shop, where he would meet and marry the owner's daughter, Rochelle. The two have been married for 58 years and have three children together: Scott Sterling (deceased), Chris Sterling and Joanna Sterling.

When he was in his 20s, he changed his surname to Sterling, a name he believed people would have "confidence" in, a former coworker told Los Angeles magazine. Sadly, his chosen last name describes neither his character nor his reputation.

Sterling began his career a personal injury and divorce lawyer in 1961, and gradually moved into real estate where he amassed his fortune, which Forbes estimates to be $2.2 billion. The $2.5 million fine levied by the NBA will cost Sterling approximately 0.0001% of his wealth.

A mosquito bite on an elephant’s hide. A similar fine to a person worth $10 million would take 25% of their wealth. People in Hollywood often change their names to mask their ethnicity as to appeal to a broad audience. Sterling’s new name hid his hereditary, but didn’t modify his morals.

John Merrick


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