Adam Silver came down hard on Donald Sterling as everyone was expecting him to do - as he should have done - but don’t think for a minute that the situation is anywhere near resolved. Donald Tokowitz, who legally added “Sterling” to his name when he was an adult “to give himself an aura of success,” according to David Suissa’s article in the Jewish Journal, is used to spending time inside a courtroom.
Silver was so upset with the (for now) Clippers’ owner that the lifetime NBA ban he imposed on Sterling, along with the max $2.5 mil fine he levied, wasn’t enough. The new commish let it be known that he was doing everything in his power to work with the other 29 owners to force Sterling to sell his basketball empire. The newly banished owner has already told people he has no intention of selling his franchise, even though the club he purchased for $12.5 million might be able to find a bidder who’d gladly fork over a billion dollars. In any case, the opening round bid is rumored to be $700 mil (especially after the Milwaukee Bucks just fetched $550 million for a franchise nowhere near as attractive).
Many people questioned why it took so long for the NBA to sanction Sterling. After all, it’s not like he didn’t already have a history of racist actions. First, there was a Justice Department suit in which Sterling said he didn’t want to rent to black people because they “smell and attract vermin.” To show he wasn’t prejudiced against blacks (at least not only blacks), he also made derogatory statements against Hispanics. This came out of a 2009 column (yeah, five years ago) by Bill Plaschke in the Los Angeles Times. In other words, we’ve known Sterling was a racist for some time now. Undoubtedly, people who’d known him longer figured it out way before then. What may have mixed us up was that it was in 2009 that Sir Donald received the NAACP Lifetime Award. Or maybe because that same organization was about to give him a second Lifetime Award this month. With the sanctions Adam Silver laid on the old guy, he’s going to need another lifetime.
Why is it, knowing what a racist and jerk one of their own was, did the owners put up with his inhumane actions? That answer is less complicated than you’d think. Keep in mind, the NBA is a highly competitive business. Independent of David Stern’s remark, prior to the last negotiations, that several (or was it most) teams were losing money, the value of every franchise has continually skyrocketed. The owners are all multimillionaires, or better. They’re not in this business to make money. That’s what all their other ventures are for. The NBA offers something they desperately want but they can’t buy: an NBA Championship.
Who gives a damn if one of the club members is a racist as long as he’s the least threatening and most incompetent owner when it comes to obtaining what they really want? With the built in advantage of being situated in LA (certainly one of the four most desirable locations for young, virile, wealthy men), do you really believe the other owners wanted another businessman like themselves owning the Clippers? While it’s not that simple (it never is), the recording made by Sterling’s girlfriend/mistress/hooker, and its timing, just couldn’t be overlooked. The point is, if someone really wanted him out years ago, the ethical challenge he exudes today has been part of his moral being for quite some time.
Whatever the case, this entire ordeal has produced some amusing questions, statements and thoughts. Of course, there were the asinine ideas - and self-serving ones - to go along with some zany notions. Here are some examples:
One person came out and said he thought last night’s game between the Clippers and Warriors should have been cancelled. Let’s take a (brief) look at this suggestion. If the game was cancelled, no one wins. Then again, there is one winner: Donald T. Sterling. Believe it or not, a talk show call-in fool said he thought the Clips should have forfeited. Probably a guy who bet the Warriors on the money line.
Another absurd remark, although because it was by Mark Jackson, Golden State’s coach, we’ll consider it gamesmanship: Play the game with no fans. He might have a point. There would be no worries about distractions or demonstrations and the game would be pure basketball, yet I wonder if that would be his feeling for Game 6 - at Oracle?
There were also a couple questions that popped up in the past couple days.
Retroactive query #1: How did Doc Rivers feel when he was playing for Sterling? The simple answer to that is, in general, players don’t play for owners. Do fans ever cheer for the owner? Only at the parade. Or possibly, for guys like Mark Cuban or Mikhail Prokhorov, i.e. the new Jacks. The players know these employers better. Yet when it comes down to it, as far as non-basketball issues, a player deals with his GM (and most have their agent do that for them) rather than the owner. Owners are much more insulated. Does anyone think for a second that any of the guys currently on the Clippers’ roster had an agent who brought up Sterling’s racist views during negotiations? 4% of more is better than 4% of less - even if it means your client has to play for a racist. It’s not like he’s having his kids frolic around the owner’s mansion alone.
Retroactive query #2 (two parts): Wonder what David Stern thinks of squashing the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade now? And, wonder what CP3 thinks about it (he was pissed when Stern pulled the plug on it)?
Retroactive query #3: it was Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander (although Charles Barkley claimed it was originally Jeff Van Gundy) who threw out the idea that every one of the Clippers ought to be declared a free agent. If anybody thinks that such an edict would shut the team down, they probably believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny. There are guys who are unhappy with their current situation; others (possibly even stars) on other NBA rosters, and still others in the D-League, who would jump to the Clippers in a second. If it meant money (and, in many instances, it wouldn’t even have to be that much more money), relocating to LA and having a chance to play in SoCal, you can bet there are players who would play for Satan’s team .
Finally, I heard both Steve Kerr and Ernie Johnson say that, surely, the owners will unanimously favor Adam Silver’s plan to request (force) Sterling to sell his ball club. On the surface, that’s exactly how it might appear . . . BUT, let’s stop and analyze that line of thinking. Every owner is pressuring Sterling - a racist and overall bad guy - to sell his “baby.” There isn’t a person in the group who doesn’t have money to burn. How certain are we that there isn’t another Donald T. Sterling?
Maybe not a racist but, when someone has so much money that they can buy whatever they want, could Silver be opening up a can of worms? Make no mistake about it, everybody has skeletons in his closet. In today’s world of the Internet, texting, emailing, sykping, instagram, tweeting - even electronic surveillance - will Donald T. Sterling become just another footnote?
As far as a wrap on this, later on in his article, David Suissa summed up the Sterling saga:
“We can’t legislate decency, but we can shame bigotry like never before. In a digital world, where millions of sound bites can spread in seconds and never go away, unleash your bigoted impulses and watch your legacy go down in shame.”