Mike Check: Mark Cuban: 'I'm prejudiced, bigoted'

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban caused a stir at a Nashville event when he offered his thoughts on bigotry in the wake of the NBA’s decision to oust Clippers owner Donald Sterling over his racist remarks:

ExploreFrom the Tennessean:

"I know I'm prejudiced and I know I'm bigoted in a lot of different ways. If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I'll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos, I'll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses."

Finally, some real talk on race from a public figure. Cuban is right: even the most fair-minded among us have racial hang-ups. What matters most, at least from a societal point of view, is that people are treated fairly on matters such as employment, housing, and the law.

So, for instance, while I might be a bit wary of the black kid in a hoodie that doesn't mean I support stop-and-frisk laws that violate his rights. Maybe I do have prejudiced thoughts when I see a Muslim man boarding my flight but I don't want him singled out for extra scrutiny by TSA agents.

(As for Cuban's hypothetical "white guy with a shaved head and tattoos" I assume he didn't have Heat center Chris Andersen in mind.)

As a black man, I guess I’m supposed to be mad at Sterling for his comments but I can’t really get too worked up about them. I don’t care if he or any other company owner has a low opinion of black employees as long as those workers are treated fairly and the owners work to create an environment that isn't racially hostile (or hostile in any other way, for that matter).

And Cuban, in an interview with Inc., said that's exactly what he tries to do as a business owner:

"(W)hen I run into bigotry in organizations I control, I try to find solutions. I'll work with people. I'll send them to training, I'll send them to sensitivity training. I'll try to give them a chance to improve themselves. Because I think improving, helping people improve their lives, helping people engage with people they may fear they may not understand and helping people realize that while we all have our prejudices and bigotries, we have to learn that it's an issue that we have to control -- that it's part of my responsibility as an entrepreneur to try to solve it, not just to kick the problem down the road."

Based on that I'd work for Cuban because clearly his personal prejudices don't affect how he runs his business. If the idea is to work only for companies whose owners have no racial prejudices, my potential employer pool shrinks substantially. If they can separate the personal from the professional then it's all good.

(That kind of pragmatism probably helps explain why Elgin Baylor worked for Sterling for 22 years even though he alleged Sterling regularly expressed racist views.)

There’s plenty of evidence Sterling was a crappy team owner and boss. But there’s been no indication Sterling’s views on race created an environment in which employees of the Los Angeles Clippers can’t get a fair shake if (and because) they are black.

More offensive than Sterling's racist comments about blacks is his well-documented (alleged) housing discrimination against blacks, Hispanics and people with children when leasing apartment units in Southern California. That's the kind of racism that affects the livelihood and financial security of working people; Sterling privately expressing racist sentiments to his mistress is relatively inconsequential.

It’s telling that the NBA’s owners only took action against Sterling for his racist views when he threatened to damage the league’s brand and, thus, their bottom line. It makes sense for them to do so from their point of view but no doubt some of them also have less-than enlightened views on race.

Whatever. Like Cuban says, no one has pure thoughts on race. The actions we take (or don’t) because of those thoughts matter more, especially for people in positions of power and influence like Sterling and Cuban.