Commissioner Adam Silver Bans Donald Sterling for Life, NBA Owners React
Well, I don’t think a much stiffer test can be presented to a newly recognized commissioner of a sport than the one Adam Silver faced this past weekend.
The Donald Sterling racism saga began on Friday night with an audio tape received by TMZ that had Sterling’s voice, now confirmed, telling his girlriend, V. Stiviano that he did not want her to bring African-Americans to his team’s basketball games and did not want her generally associating with African-Americans at all, especially on social media like Instagram.
Allegations and even lawsuits presenting Sterling as having racist thoughts and views are well-documented outside of the sports world. In this particular instance, Sterling, who owns the Los Angeles Clippers, made these racist comments about African-American individuals like, but not limited to, Magic Johnson, who has a tremendous value and history with the NBA.
Johnson, along with Larry Bird, is credited with the boom of basketball in the 1980’s that put the NBA on the map. His importance to this league is invaluable and he remains an integral part of operations around the league today.
Sterling’s remarks have had a profound impact, not only on his team, but the entire league including players, coaches and league officials.
The speculation was rampant on a range of issues following the news of this man’s vile comments: whether the Clippers would even play Game 4 in the playoffs, how harsh the penalty would be for Sterling, if the league could force Sterling to sell the team, whether Doc Rivers would return next year (he is under contract), etc.
It all came back to Adam Silver, the new commissioner of the league and this baptism of fire, so to speak. His first real test is one that would most likely set some kind of precedent for the league and their rules regarding incidents of this nature.
The early speculation from critics and analysts was a $1 million fine and some kind of suspension that ranged from the rest of this playoffs to an indefinite one.
No one seemed to be putting much weight in the idea that Silver might rely heavily on the voice of his players to make this decision.
Star players in the league like LeBron James and Chris Paul were vocal in their opinion that Sterling had no place in their league and NBPA Special Assistant Kevin Johnson echoed that sentiment on behalf of many of the players in the entire league.
Silver’s press conference today got right to the point and served as a powerful notice that he had heard what the players of his league had said loud and clear. His penalty, and what seems to be his course of action going forward, was also very loud and clear.
A $2.5 million fine for Sterling, but most importantly, a lifetime ban for him from the Clippers and any event in relation to the team.
The penalty was a bit of a shock for many, but it was a verdict that showed Silver was strong-willed, attentive to his players and focused on making the correct moral decision. This was not just about providing a sliver of justice that would amount to nothing but a slap on the wrist; it was about setting an example for his league which he is now thoroughly in charge of.
This ban, coupled with his initiative to go ahead and ask the Board of Governors to vote to remove Sterling as an owner, which they can do with a 3/4 vote, should help rid the NBA of Sterling at some point in the future.
It will not be an easy process and Sterling, who is notorious for being as litigious as possible in cases like this one, will still come out a victor in one major way: he will get paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $750 million-$1 billion for this team.
The telling comment by Silver towards the end of his presser was that he expected the owners to reach this 3/4 vote to remove Sterling as the owner and begin the sale of his team to someone more fit to own the Clippers. That answer is a clear indication of what the owners will almost certainly do because no one wants to stand out as the owner that sided with a racist owner.
Shortly after the conference, several owners like the New York Knicks’ James Dolan came out in full support of Silver’s decision and seem to signal the voting process will go swimmingly in favor of ousting Sterling from the NBA.
“I have been in touch with the NBA and fully support Commissioner Silver’s decision,” Dolan said. “I applaud Adam for acting quickly and decisively in appropriately addressing these disgusting and offensive comments. This kind of behavior has no place in basketball, or anywhere else, and we as a league must stand together in condemning this ignorance.”
Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has not yet commented on Silver’s decision on Sterling.
While this saga is not over, and likely will not be for some period of time, it was a great step in the right direction for the league, specifically for the Los Angeles Clippers organization.
Silver ruled with an iron fist today, but the most powerful thing I saw was the emotion he showed while doing it. He was unflinching, yet you could hear the tremble and occasional cracking in his voice as he spoke about a matter that truly affected him.
Adam Silver convinced us that this league would be in fine hands with him as he passed his first test with flying colors and began the long and arduous process to rid the NBA of Donald Sterling.
Anything less would have left us with doubts and after Tuesday’s decision, I have none.
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