Adam Silver’s first major decision as NBA commissioner was swift, forceful and warranted.
Silver announced Tuesday that the league is banning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA for racially charged remarks he made during an argument with his alleged mistress. Sterling is also fined $2.5 million, the maximum allowed by the league, and Silver urges the NBA Board of Governors to force Sterling to sell the team.
The decision was justified because of the gravity of the situation.
Sterling has a long history of being insensitive toward minorities. Twice in the last 15 years he was sued for discriminating against blacks, Latinos and Asians. Those who have come to know Sterling — arguably one of the worst owners in sports — are well aware of his reputation. His views are straight out of the mind of a plantation owner. He’s Cliven Bundy without the Cowboy hat and ranch.
When TMZ obtained the audio recording between Sterling and his female friend, V. Stiviano — who is half his age — the rest of the world got to know the real Donald Sterling. When TMZ gets a hold of something it spreads like a forest fire.
Here’s part of their conversation published by TMZ and Deadspin:
V. Stiviano: I don’t understand, I don’t see your views. I wasn’t raised the way you were raised.
Donald Sterling: Well then, if you don’t feel—don’t come to my games. Don’t bring black people, and don’t come.
V: Do you know that you have a whole team that’s black, that plays for you?
DS: You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?
DS: It’s the world! You go to Israel, the blacks are just treated like dogs.
V: So do you have to treat them like that too?
DS: The white Jews, there’s white Jews and black Jews, do you understand?
V: And are the black Jews less than the white Jews?
DS: A hundred percent, fifty, a hundred percent.
V: And is that right?
DS: It isn’t a question—we don’t evaluate what’s right and wrong, we live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture.
V: But shouldn’t we take a stand for what’s wrong? And be the change and the difference?
DS: I don’t want to change the culture, because I can’t. It’s too big and too [unknown].
V: But you can change yourself.
DS: I don’t want to change. If my girl can’t do what I want, I don’t want the girl. I’ll find a girl that will do what I want! Believe me. I thought you were that girl—because I tried to do what you want. But you’re not that girl.
The comments were downright disturbing, but not stunning. In today’s world, if you think racism doesn’t exit then you must be hiding under a rock. No matter how far we’ve come as a society and no matter how many times we’ve moved forward, there is still a large portion of society who are racists and bigots. Sterling is not the first nor the last billionaire who thinks the playing field should not be level.
Other NBA owners didn’t exactly condemn Sterling’s remarks until a couple of days later. They have their own skeletons in the closet. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he doesn’t want to associate himself with an owner who have racist views, but punishing owners for making ignorant statements is a “slippery slope.”
Sterling must not like prosperity because it took three decades for his franchise to finally enjoy a winner on the basketball court. The Clippers were the laughingstock of the NBA until Chris Paul joined forces with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to form Lob City in 2011.
With Doc Rivers at the helm, the Clippers are legitimate championship contenders this season. But after Sterling’s skeletons spilled out into the open, the Clippers name is sullied again.
The players silently protested at the start of Game 3 of their playoff series with Golden State by removing their warm-up sweaters and dropping them at center court. They flipped their T-shirts inside-out so the Clipper logo doesn’t show on their chest or back.
Paul says the team is unified more than ever and moving forward because they don’t want one man to ruin the season. But you can see the stress on Paul’s face. He looks fatigued from all the off-the-court drama he has to deal not just as a player but as president of the NBA Players Association.
Rivers also looked stressed. As much as he wanted to focus on the series with the Warriors, the Sterling debacle is inescapable.
The Clippers head home to L.A. for Game 5. But being at home probably won’t keep them safe from the dark cloud that hangs over the entire organization.
“We’re going home now,” said Rivers. “Usually that would mean we’re going to our safe haven. And I don’t even know if thats true.”
Joel Huerto is editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.