Dear Commissioner Silver and the NBA Board of Governors-
As an avid NBA fan, I remember the night when Michael Jordan led the Bulls to the 1998 Finals Victory over the Utah Jazz. My mom would not let me stay up to watch the full game as I had school the next morning. Instead she told me she would wake me up if the game was close at the end, which she did. I got to watch the ending and championship ceremony of Jordan’s last game in Chicago. Man, what a dynasty that was.
I am from Los Angeles, so I am a devout Laker fan. My first game was to the Great Western Forum, just after the Showtime Lakers broke up. Ask most people my age, and they don’t even know what the Great Western Forum is. Kobe Bryant is my favorite player and has been for the better part of almost 12 years. Shaq and he could have easily won another few championships if they had stayed together after the 2004 season. That 1-2 punch along with guys like Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Robert Horry dominated in the earlier 2000’s. The 2004 NBA Finals were rough for me. I had the choice to cheer for my original hometown Lakers or current hometown Pistons, without a doubt my 2 favorite teams. I remember Kobe Bryant nailing an outside three in regulation of Game 2 to send it to overtime. I remember the team of 4 future All Stars being projected to destroy the Pistons who were made up of no-names in comparison. Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince? Please, this was Shaq and Kobe. Most of all I remember sitting in the Palace of Auburn Hills watching the banners and confetti drop down in the final seconds as the Pistons won game 5 and the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The tickets still hang in my room as a keepsake of the best sports game I have ever attended.
The playoffs this year have been nothing short of phenomenal. Round 1 was intense with all the Game 7’s and the buzzer beaters like Damien Lilliard’s three to send them to the second round. I have only missed 1 game so far, even though I have no vested interest in any team as my Lakers and Pistons both missed the cut. For this, you have my sincerest gratitude. As an NBA fan, the parity in the league is exciting and makes it much more fun to watch. That being said, I was not too pleased when Mr. Stern blocked Chris Paul from going to my Lakers. Anyway, I digress. So thank you for the playoffs this year, and realize that what I say next comes from the heart of an NBA fan, not just a fan of 1 team.
Last month, Clippers owner Donald Sterling made some of the most offensive remarks I have ever heard. There are obviously some racial issues that he needs to deal with, and I fully support his large fine and indefinite suspension from any NBA activity. However, my concern lies with your upcoming vote to strip Clippers ownership from him. My issue is not so much with your authority to use this action, it is more so with how this looks in comparison to some other very insensitive comments made by NBA affiliated people in the past. Everyone is calling for Sterling’s head on a silver platter, however I do not see the point in forcing him to sell a team which will bring him 35-75 times the amount he paid. Personally, I hoped the commissioner would release all coaches and players from their contracts leading to the Clippers not being able to field a team, given that nobody in the league would work for Sterling. This would devalue the franchise and force Mr. Sterling to sell his team at a lower profit margin. I also stress that a lengthy legal battle would not be good for the league in any way. I do not claim to be a lawyer or expert, but it is not hard to see that this is heading for the courts no matter how you vote; as Mr. Sterling has objected to the other punishments as well. All of this is irrelevant to me, what is relevant however is that there seems to be some inconsistency with how the NBA has handled intolerance, discrimination, and offenses in the past. For example:
Spike Lee– can be seen courtside at most Knick games, from what I have read works for the NBA Sirius station, and was seen sitting front row at the commissioner’s Donald Sterling press conference. Here are some of the comments Spike Lee has made in the past, which he has not had to answer to the NBA for-
“I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the streets.” This amongst other racially insensitive and hate filled comments towards whites including the suggestion that Blacks here in the US have to take up arms against Whites to gain power, and women. Can be found here: http://www.esquire.com/features/spike-lee-1092
Ron Artest & Stephen Jackson– Viciously and violently attacked Pistons fans in the notorious Palace Brawl. In the following video they can each be seen running into the stands and punching at least 2 different fans. Granted, Artest was provoked; but I thought the NBA held its players to higher standards-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cTZsqxPVHo. Yes they were suspended for some games, but both came back to the league and continued playing after this violent attack. Artest was violent toward another player after this, James Harden, throwing a severe elbow that could have resulted in neck or head injuries and resulted in yet another suspension. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjCGlsoRMAo
Inside the NBA Crew- Mocking and laughing at the expense of overweight women and suggesting there are many of them in San Antonio. http://thinkprogress.org/sports/2014/05/07/3435073/barkley-san-antonio/ Charles Barkley made the comments, yet the entire crew egged him on and nobody stopped it. They all work for the NBA and made these comments on TV.
Shaquille O’Neal- Forget about the San Antonio overweight women segment. How about the fact that he recently made fun of man from Michigan with a rare genetic disorder that affects his appearance. Not only did he make a comment, he also posted a picture on his instagram poking fun at this man. Shaq apologized and the man accepted, however where is the NBA on this one; protecting the inclusion of the league? The picture and story can be found here:http://www.freep.com/article/20140430/NEWS04/304300167/Shaquille-O-Neal-Jahmel-Binion-Instagram-selfie
Gilbert Arenas & Javaris Crittenton- Both pulled guns on each in an NBA locker room. The NBA went on to suspend them for a few games, but pulling guns on a teammate compared to making a racist comment in private? Which deserves the harsher punishment? Here is the story:http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4787825
Kevin Johnson- Former NBA player, mayor of Sacramento, and representative for the players in this Sterling Controversy. http://deadspin.com/the-man-who-helped-bring-down-donald-sterling-is-an-ass-1576960521. He is by no means an angel. He was accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with St. Hope students. There were investigations about these incidents and claims by prosecutor’s and reports given to Congress. Mr. Johnson even settled a dispute so a sexual assault against him would be dismissed. Yet, today he is portrayed as a hero and best friend of the NBA during this Sterling scandal.
Kobe Bryant- My favorite player, one of the faces of the NBA, the second coming of Michael Jordan, a moneymaker for the Lakers and NBA worldwide. Whatever we call him, let’s not forget he was arrested in 2003 for sexual assault. Yes, the prosecutors did drop the case because the woman would not testify and there was a settlement on the civil case. But again, where was the NBA on this issue? Isn’t a charge of sexual assault serious enough to warrant a fine, or suspension; especially when one admits after the fact, “I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did” Story is found here: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Bryant-rape-case-ends-in-dismissal-Accuser-2728673.php
I am not trying to say these are bad people, and I actually am sure many of them are good men who have made errors in judgment once or twice. Just as I have, and just as I am sure ALL of you have. But many of these incidents such as pulling a gun on a teammate, sexual assault, assault, racist comments, and bullying are just as wrong as the actions and words by Mr. Sterling. Some of them we can all agree are even more serious than a private conversation. However, Mr. Sterling is the only one who was forced to sever ties with the NBA and punished harshly. When we put it in perspective he made private comments in his own house, which illegally became public. I agree with an owner who will remain nameless, that commented the NBA is embarking on a very slippery slope. Does Mr. Sterling’s proposed punishment fit the crime? This is debatable, but I think the fine and suspension do.
I just urge you to realize what you are getting yourself into now. Every time a player or coach, or one of you does something or makes off the cuff comments that people find offensive, realize you and they need to be held to this same standard including a hefty fine, indefinite suspension or expulsion. I said before and I will say again, I believe a lengthy legal battle is bad publicity for the league at such a crucial time in the season. However, if that is the road you choose; I hope Mr. Sterling does not have any ‘dirt’ on other owners about prior actions or comments which he could ultimately make public if his back is pushed against the wall. Why is this reaction so harsh? Was it really because it was non-inclusive and hurt the intended diversity of the NBA? I could say the same thing about Spike Lee’s comments, the Inside the NBA crew’s segment, and Shaquille O’ Neal’s bullying. What is the difference? The difference is with each of those, businesses did not start pulling sponsorships. The NBA did not start losing money. Let’s be up front and call this what it is. The harsh reaction was not due to diversity or imagery reasons. Otherwise these other injustices would have had the same consequences. The reaction was due to a hungry media looking for a head to roll and exploiting a private conversation which led to sponsors being forced to pull their money. You are voting to oust Sterling not because what he said, but because it might hurt your pocketbooks if you don’t. All I say is from one NBA fan to another do not be hypocrites. If money is the reason, come out and say that. Don’t try to hide behind the cover that his actions have hurt the diversity, inclusion and image of the NBA; as the history of this league and its reactions to offenses by people associated with it do not support that claim. However, if this is the precedent you want to set then that is your right to do so. Just know, once this punishment is out there; it needs to be used fairly across the board for ALL players and owners. Next rape allegation, next assault, next intolerant comment toward blacks, whites, gays, straight people, fat people, skinny people, tall people, or just different people needs to be treated with the same outrage and repercussions that Sterling faces. The NBA needs to be a league that is fair to all, and treats all violations with the same outrage; not just the ones the media or league sponsors decide to be upset about.