Silver Had No Choice But Ban
Within minutes of rookie NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s announcement that embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling was the voice on the TMZ-released audio tape, would be banned for life from the NBA and from L.A. Clippers business, and fined $2.5 million, Silver was being hailed as a hero for the ages. Accolades and praise poured in from all corners of society, lauding him for his courage and foresight for his historic decision, which also seemed to please just about every NBA player.
Before anyone goes a whole lot further with the coronation of Silver, know this: He had no real choice.
He was informed by former NBA player and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who currently advises the NBA, that absent a very strong sanction on Sterling, all NBA players would walk out on their playoff games last Tuesday. In addition to banning Sterling from the NBA, Silver promised to expedite the processes that would lead to his forced sale of the Clippers. It was a move that had broad public support, nearly unilateral support from the media, and no owner would publicly do anything but endorse it.
Is that courage? Or would it have been more courageous to admit the NBA had failed to do anything until now despite abundant evidence that Sterling had been racist and discriminating in his other business dealings for at least a decade and maybe more?
The evidence that Sterling had discriminated in housing matters and settled for $2.75 million in a federal lawsuit was far worse than anything that happened on the now-infamous TMZ tape. It’s impossible to feel anything like sympathy for Sterling considering his ugly racist views, though in terms of his transgression, the mob has decided it can’t – and won’t – live with his opinions and perspective. Having Sterling out of the NBA is great for the league, but I tend to agree with Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar that his actions in the past were far worse than his current sin, which focuses on a dismissive and contemptuous attitude toward former Lakers star Magic Johnson.
The question is rightly being asked as to why Silver and his predecessor, David Stern, did nothing all those years ago. And the way this came down is that what was a private conversation was made very public with very little condemnation from the media. The new reality is that there is effectively no such thing as a private conversation, or any expectation of privacy in any setting.
It is impossible to shed any tears for Sterling, who is getting what he has long deserved, but Silver’s actions, much like those of Stern before him, were a necessary response to which way the wind was blowing, and he managed to stave off a player boycott during playoff games, which would have been the biggest story in sports in the last quarter century.
* Another reason to get out to Les Murakami Stadium and enjoy UH Rainbow Warrior baseball is the newly installed scoreboard in right center field. The bigger and better scoreboard should only enhance an already spectacular game-day experience.