To the surprise of many, at a press conference on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million dollars. While this is not the final chapter of the saga (Sterling will likely fight efforts forcing him to sell the team), there are four things that can be taken from this entire incident.
1. Give bigots a noose, they will hang themselves
It seems like bigots or racists like Sterling and even Clive Bundy are unable to keep their mouths shut. President Obama had a great quote when commenting on Sterling: “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything. You just let them talk.”
Give these kinds of people enough time and space to speak their minds and they will reveal the depth of their racist beliefs. They will self-destruct in a flurry of stupidity, leaving their former supporters looking silly in the aftermath.
2. David Stern’s legacy is tainted
In many ways, Donald Sterling is a leftover problem from the era of David Stern, Silver’s predecessor. All those years that that Sterling was settling anti-discrimination housing lawsuits, Stern never took any action against him.
At the same time, Stern basically gift-wrapped Chris Paul to the Clippers a few years ago after nixing a 3-way trade by the Los Angeles Lakers, the Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans. Sterling did nothing to deserve this good fortune.
In a special election, David Stern will be inducted in into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, a year after retiring. Commissioners should have to wait five year before being eligible for the Hall of Fame, just like players. There is more to being a good commissioner than riding the backs of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to bigger markets and more dollars.
3. Adam Silver already a capable leader
Silver could have taken less drastic action such as an indefinite suspension (which is what many people and some media organizations expected). Instead, he used all of his power as commissioner to not only ban Sterling for life but also to start a drive to kick him out of the NBA completely.
This effort to force Sterling to sell is not without risk. Earlier, at least one owner, Mark Cuban, expressed reservation about forcing someone to sell a team based on private conversations, calling it a “slippery slope” (although he does supports Silver’s decision to ban Sterling for life). Silver will have to persuade at least 75 percent of the owners to force Sterling to sell. A tall order for sure, but to this point, Silver has done something Stern was always reluctant to do: confront Sterling.
4. The NAACP has some explaining to do
I am disappointed to hear that the local chapter of the NAACP in Los Angeles, California honored Sterling in the past in part for donating money to the organization in 2010, just a year after Sterling settled an anti-discrimination lawsuit in 2009. This gives the impression that honors and awards can be bought from the NAACP for a price.
However, to its credit, the NAACP has decided not to give Sterling a life achievement award and will return his $5,000 from 2009. Hopefully the organization will use this experience to review the whole process of receiving donations and handing out honors and awards. It is too long and proud a history to allow itself to be on sale.