Two days ago, NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for the insensitive remarks he made that were recorded on tape by his mistress, V. Stiviano.
Much of the media has reacted with glee upon hearing Silver’s sentence, feeling that Sterling should have been removed as an owner a long time ago for several of his actions towards both current and former players. People have been rallying in the streets much like they were in the streets of Iraq in 2003, as if they have removed a dictator from the top of his castle in downtown LA.
Now let me just bit a bit of a disclaimer. I don’t agree with Sterling’s statements or feelings or anything he has really done other than try and sleep with younger, attractive woman. That is the only viewpoint in life that I share with the man.
However, in this post-David Stern world, Silver made a decision that reminded us how Stern “knows where the bodies are buried.” If Silver were to say suspend Sterling for five years and fine him the $2.5 million, people would have been outraged by the leniency of the commissioner. So what did Silver do, he banned someone for having their words illegally recorded and played for the world to listen to and judge. Silver made the decision perhaps a bit too quickly, not taking enough time to realize that this move will have further legal implications that the NBA may be settling out of court.
The owners are where Silver may have his best case. They will call for a vote for Sterling to sell the LA Clippers franchise and he will most likely be forced to both sell the team, and then give part of that revenue to charity or another organization. Again, this is definitely a great excuse to get Sterling out of this exclusive group because frankly, he doesn’t embody what the league is trying to do from a PR standpoint and he was never going to adjust.
My main issue here is that Sterling didn’t actually do anything. He didn’t treat players different in public, at least poor enough that it would make national news, and with the exception of a banning of Magic Johnson from court-side during Clippers games, he managed to elude NBA authorities for any wrong behavior in the last few years. This is a harsh punishment for someone who didn’t act on such viral sentiments.
P.J. Carlesimo was choked by Latrell Sprewell and while Spree was suspended, didn’t get nearly the same punishment Sterling is going to “serve”. And now we have to watch Carlesimo do analysis on this issue. How do you not think of him getting physically attacked by one of his players, in what won’t be considered a racist crime, but for sure was driven by racial differences?
I am fine with Sterling being punished harshly for his actions, but it should not be celebrated like the freeing of a nation. It should just be business as usual for the NBA, as if they have done this before, because obviously this type of behavior isn’t what they need for their image and is a stain on our culture as people. But let’s calm down and wait for the next person of power to slip up to see if things are handled in a similar manner. I would hate to see an owner with a good reputation get some leeway unlike Sterling and my fear is that when this comes around again in any sport, the punishment will only get harsher and we may lose some of the “color” that helps makes sports interesting from a fan’s perspective.