When the audio of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments surfaced on TMZ, the NBA faced a problem that quickly escalated into an impending catastrophe. With talk of boycotts and protests threatening to derail an exciting start to the 2014 NBA postseason, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver was forced to take action. On April 29, 2014, Silver banned Sterling from the NBA for life and fined him a maximum penalty of $2.5 million.
Within moments of Adam Silver’s announcement, social media lost its mind with a frenzy of posts praising the NBA commissioner’s decisive action. Magic Johnson tweeted, “Commissioner Silver showed great leadership in banning LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life.” And LeBron James tweeted, “Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league!! Great leader!!” The following week, the love fest was still going strong.
On May 7, Adam Silver presented the 2014 NBA MVP trophy to Kevin Durant just prior to the tip-off of Game 2 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers. However, the Thunder fans nearly sabotaged the festivities by cheering their lungs out for Adam Silver. Bud Selig and Roger Goodell would give anything to be this popular. In fact, Adam Silver may be the leading candidate for the 2014 Time Person of the Year Award.
But consider this. Did Adam Silver really have a choice when he banned Donald Sterling for life? There were rumors circulating on April 29 that all NBA players would be boycotting their playoff games that night if Silver didn’t issue a lifetime ban to Sterling. This is the equivalent of someone putting a gun to your head and telling you to do something or else. Adam Silver clearly made the right decision. But anyone in his position would have done the same thing.
Also, Adam Silver didn’t exactly drop from heaven when he became NBA commissioner earlier this year. In fact, Silver has worked for the NBA for the past 22 years. During that time, Donald Sterling engaged in boorish behavior that made him the worst owner in all of sports long before his girlfriend secretly recorded their infamous conversation. Adam Silver was part of the NBA machine that left Sterling’s actions unchecked for several decades.
Adam Silver made the right decision when he banned Donald Sterling for life from the NBA. However, NBA players forced him to make this decision. Everyone needs to slow down in making Silver the most popular man in the world. The NBA has a tough road ahead in ridding itself of the Sterling family. The upcoming months will truly test Adam Silver’s mettle as a leader.
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