Edward Pratt: Sterling coverage missed bigger story

Since last weekend, the national media have been focused on the outlandish and racist comments alleged to have been made in a surreptitiously recorded conversation involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Among the 80-year-old’s horrible alleged comments in a rant with a 31-year-old former girlfriend was that he didn’t want basketball great Magic Johnson and other black people at Clipper games, even though his team and every team in the NBA has a predominantly black player roster.

He also didn’t want his girlfriend associating publicly with black people. The sports world went ballistic, as they strung a laundry list of negative adjectives together to describe him.

The NBA commissioner brought the hammer down Tuesday, banning Sterling from the league and, by implication, suggesting that the erstwhile plantation owner eventually would have to sell his team.

(I would be remiss if I didn’t throw in a big, “What the hell were you thinking?” to the hustlers at the Los Angeles Chapter of NAACP, who were on the verge of giving Sterling, who had a racist history, a second lifetime achievement award.)

Sterling’s racist rants generated a lot of hooting, hollering and pontificating. Celebs and politicians and athletes, past and present, foreign and domestic, weighed in on interviews to blast Sterling.

Of course, we also had to endure the you-got-to-have-them-because-the-matter-is-race interviews and photo ops with the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

I did not get the memo that I should be in a frenzy about the story. Yes, it was horrible and distasteful, but I am not naive enough to be shocked that there are some folks whose net worth has nine zeros behind it who can still be backward-thinking Neanderthals.

So, instead of spending so much time on the Sterling saga, I was excited by what happened in Wisconsin this week.

Yep, Wisconsin, the state with motto, “Forward.” A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to produce state-approved photo identification cards at polling places. This IS significant!

The judge found that the state’s 2011 law violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, which is supposed to stop states from imposing rules that limit a citizen’s right to vote based on race or color.

The judge said, “I find that the plaintiffs have shown that the disproportionate impact of the photo ID requirement results from the interaction of the requirement with the effects of past or present discrimination.”

The judge reasoned that black and Latino residents of Wisconsin are disproportionately likely to live in poverty. Individuals who live in poverty are less likely to drive or participate in other activities for which a photo ID may be required (such as banking, air travel, and international travel), and so they obtain fewer benefits from possession of a photo ID than do individuals who can afford to participate in these activities.

The American Civil Liberties Union has said studies suggest up to 11 percent of American citizens lack such IDs and would be required to navigate the administrative burden to obtain them or forgo the right to vote.

The so-called stop voter fraud legislation sweeping the country picked up steam after President Barack Obama’s first win, then, joined by grossly gerrymandered voting districts, became intense during his 2012 re-election bid. It has continued afterward.

The voter suppression — er, voter ID — proponents say all they want is clean, fair elections, yet they have been hard-pressed to show there was major voter fraud over the past 10 years. So, what do you think is motivating this?

I am much more interested in the prospect of more poor people not having to be harassed because they want to vote. I hope similar voter suppression laws across the country are swept out.

This is the kind of stuff that gets me a lot more engaged than the foolish rants of a garden-variety racist like Donald Sterling, who may be forced to take about $500 million to head off into NBA purgatory.

Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is epratt1972@yahoo.com.