Here's longtime Sports Illustrated reporter Franz Lidz today, first writing something he tried—and failed—to publish 14 years ago.
Shortly after the Clippers made Danny Manning the top pick of the 1988 NBA draft, team owner Donald Sterling invited the player and his agent, Ron Grinker, to talk contract in Beverly Hills. It was recounted to me how Sterling lounged around his mansion in a bathrobe open to his navel, wearing nothing underneath.
At one point Sterling's preteen son wandered in and was chastised for skipping Hebrew school. The owner commanded the boy, "Go to your room and get undressed." The child slouched upstairs. Sterling followed. The next thing Manning heard was a belt thrashing and the boy wailing, as Grinker bounded up the stairs yelling, "Stop! Stop! We'll sign."
(This was almost certainly Scott Sterling, who wasn't charged with shooting a friend over a girl in 1999 thanks to his father's influence, and who died of a drug overdose last year.)
Lidz brings up the story not to pile on the deposed Clippers owner, but to illustrate the pass Sterling had long received for a series of awful things that lots of people knew about. Not just the awful things that found their way into print and were roundly ignored, but the open secrets among media members and NBA executives that for one reason or another never reached the page.
Lidz's piece was an excoriating cover story that declared Sterling as unfit for franchise ownership way back in 2000. But this specific incident was excised from the magazine, and it was far from the only one. Today, Lidz writes:
[S]o much of his behavior — extreme parsimony, discriminatory practices, wild sexual escapades — was deemed too weird, too cruel, too contemptible. An editor told me, "You've demonized him."
If you've heard the anecdote about Sterling hitting his son before, it's because a version of it was published on this site in January 2013 after we received it from a former Clippers reporter. Influential and powerful people have known who Donald Sterling is for decades. Their biggest mistake was counting on him dying before it all came out.