COMMENTARY| The sports world has been on high alert since the release of the audio tapes that identified Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, making purported racist remarks about minorities. With a thorough investigation by the NBA complete, it is now confirmed that the voice recorded was indeed Sterling. Immediately, the pressure built up against newly appointed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. With only three months under his belt as commissioner, he was now faced with what may be considered the most important decision in NBA history. Speculation arose to new heights across social media as to how severe the punishment would be for Sterling, and how much authority Silver really had to even ignite a punishment that would satisfy the African American community, as well as the league and its players. But it is fair to say that Adam Silver represented his position well, as he threw the book at Donald Sterling, banning him for life from all NBA activities, fining him $2.5M, and to the surprise of everyone, urging the owners to force Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. Silver successfully utilized his power and authority to demonstrate that discrimination would not be tolerated on any level in the NBA. But he did something else too. Silver shifted the pressure from him being a new commissioner making a tough decision, to the owners of the NBA who now have to make a stand. It is now up to the owners, as 22 of the 30 (75%) must agree in a vote to strip Sterling of his ownership in order for him to be forced to sell. For five very good reasons, this vote must pass.
1. Player’s Security
Sterling’s comments placed an insecurity on not only the Clippers players, but all players across the league. The NBA is 80% African American and each player that steps on the court for the logo on their chest and the owner that cuts their check, needs to be secure in the notion that they are appreciated and accepted. Players will not want to stay in a place where they believe their owners have a hidden racist agenda. The owners need to show their players and staff, their organization is free from that thinking.
State Farm, CarMax, and Kia are just a few sponsors that pulled away from the Clippers in lieu of Sterling’s comments. If the owners decide not to force Sterling away, then they risk potential sponsors pulling from their clubs as well. Sponsors are not so likely to be associated with any organization that condones a prejudice behavior and by allowing Sterling to stay on as an absent owner, it may send the message of approval of his actions. Leaving sponsors equal thinning pockets.
3. No One is Bigger than the Brand
Too often it is believed that money and power equal injustice. The more money you have, the easier it is to “buy your way out”. The NBA owners need to send a message to everyone and set a precedent that no one person is bigger than the brand. Rules and regulations are set in place for a reason, and by voting Sterling out, it will show the league and its fans that money is not a determining factor when deciding right and wrong.
4. Save Themselves
If for no reason other than to save face, the owners need to make this decision and fast. Various media outlets have interviewed other NBA owners and each of them that spoke made it clear there was/is no room for this type of offensive behavior in the league. They need to show that those are not just words spoke out of obligation, but meaningful views that they are not afraid to back up.
5. It’s Simply the Right Thing to Do
Mark Cuban had a legitimate point in stating, “…when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope.” It is understood that these comments were made in private with no intent of being exposed, but the fact is they were. And what Donald Sterling displayed was a habitual offense as far as being accused in discriminatory and racist acts. MLB got it right when they forced out then Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott over her similar comments involving race and reprehensible behavior. They pressured her into selling because it was the right thing to do. NBA owners must follow suit. The NBA brand as we know it depends on it.