When Words Are Like Toothpaste

A lady at our church used to do the children’s message. About once a year, she would sit among the children and squeeze toothpaste from a tube. Once she had coaxed out as much as she could, she’d hand the empty tube to one of the little boys and ask him to put the toothpaste back in the tube. When he failed, she’d pass the bowl of toothpaste and the empty tube around to the other children as they one by one would fail to return the toothpaste to the tube. “Your words are like this toothpaste,” she’d say, holding up the bowl. “Once they are out of your mouth, they can never go back again.”

What a great lesson—a lesson that is as relevant to adults as it is to children. In fact, I know a couple of gentlemen who should have taken this lesson to heart.

I have always loved basketball at all levels—especially the National Basketball Association, commonly called the NBA. On Saturday night, Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling purportedly made some harsh racist remarks. I was stunned. For years, Elgin Baylor, an African-American, served as the Clippers’ club president. The Clippers’ current coach is Doc Rivers, another African-American. And, of the twelve-man Clippers’ roster, ten are African-American. How can that be? How can someone who lives in the sports world and who gives the appearance of being tolerant say such things? The answer is easy. He is a racist. Maybe a closet racist, but a racist, none the less.

As this story continues to develop, there may be other explanations. For example, Donald Sterling claims he had authorized his ex-girlfriend to make this recording because he feared he’d forget what he’d said. But now he says she altered the recording. However, more and more facts have immerged regarding Sterling’s racism including preventing non-whites from living in his rental apartments.Silhouette fedora

Since this story broke, I learned that Elgin Baylor had filed a lawsuit against Sterling and the team over his old contract. The same is true of several other of his former players and coaches. Sterling has chosen to fight them in court rather than honor their respective contracts.

Now Doc Rivers, one of the best coaches in the league, must coach his team, the Los Angeles Clippers, under adverse conditions brought about by the owner of the team. Coach Rivers is contemplating his future with the club. About ten years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Doc Rivers. He seemed like a gregarious gentlemen. He let some of my AAU basketball kids take pictures with him. What a day for my team! But here and now, Doc Rivers, a splendid ambassador for the game of professional basketball, is being put through unnecessary drama and negative attention.

During the Clippers game on Sunday, the team turned their uniforms inside out during warm-ups—a silent but brilliant protest of Sterling’s evil words. But clearly their heads were not in the game. Can you blame them? The new commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, says he is investigating Sterling’s racist remarks and is expected to quickly address the situation. But I have to agree with Mike Greenberg of ESPN, who said that other than Michael Jordon and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the owners have been silent on the racism displayed by Sterling. They have a platform and they are not taking advantage of it!

Another racist in the news is Cliven Bundy, the Nevada Rancher whose recent dispute with the federal government over grazing rights culminated in a near armed confrontation that could have become much worse. Mr. Bundy’s ridiculous statements could clearly impact public perception of his case against the United States Government. Mr. Bundy demonstrates that if you put a microphone in front of someone over and over, eventually he’ll tire of reciting the same message and his true personality will slip out.

As those kids learned, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. If your heart is pure, then one does not have to fear words uttered in private or before a microphone, but should your heart hold hideous secrets, be aware that in today’s world of instant record that eventually your true colors will be exposed—especially the color of your soul.

One Thought on “When Words Are Like Toothpaste

  1. Nicely put, Don. Like my Mom always told us,”If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, very good advice.

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