Tuesday was the coming out party for the new NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver. No, he did not come out of the closet (which is what we usually think of when we say “coming out”), he came out swinging and threw down the gauntlet banning the L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for LIFE. In Tuesday’s press conference the skinny, nervous looking man showed us why he was chosen to take over for David Stern, that he is not scared of any one owner, and that he has some cajones. I for one was duly impressed. Let me explain…
This past weekend a recording was discovered and released by TMZ that had L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling criticizing his “girlfriend” for being publicly seen fraternizing with black people. I won’t give you a statement by statement breakdown of what the 81 year old Sterling said, but here are a few of his ignorant statements during an argument with his girlfriend:
– “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.”
– “Don’t bring blacks to my games!”
– said by girlfriend “Honey, if it makes you happy, I will remove all of the black people from my Instagram.” DS responds with “You said that before, you said ‘I understand.'”
Anyone who follows the NBA and more specifically, the L.A. Clippers, probably already knew that Sterling was a sexist and a racist but this one recording brought it front and center. At a time that fans and players should be enjoying the playoffs this recording and its meaning had the potential to be a black cloud hovering over the league for the rest of the season. Fortunately, Silver acted swiftly and decisively to dissipate that cloud.
If you are like me you are probably wondering how could a NBA franchise owner be a racist? How could someone who owed his fortune and “fame” to a sport that is dominated by African-American athletes possibly hold the ignorant views that he does? Well, I cannot tell you why but I can explain what happened, what the Commissioner did and what will be coming down the pipeline.
First, there were only so many things that the Commissioner could do when an owner steps out of bounds. Remember, the owner owns the team, it is his business and the Commissioner works for the owners. Contrary to what most people wanted, the Commissioner can not fire the owner and strip him of his team. The Commissioner and the NBA first had a duty to complete a thorough and fair investigation, which was done. Sterling admitted it was his voice on the tape, he confirmed his statements and offered no apology. At that point Silver could look to all his options under the League Bylaws which included suspensions, fines, threats and reprimands and he chose the most harsh ones he could. As of Tuesday, his options did not include stripping Sterling of the Clippers; that is something that can be done down the road after the majority of owners approve.
The announcement was quick, decisive and harsh yet in my mind it was just. A lifetime ban from the NBA, including the Clippers facility and games, and a substantial fine. I anticipated he would take the safer route of a temporary suspension to be lengthened and approved by the owners this summer and a fine. I am glad I was wrong. The options of a lifetime ban and a fine were available to him because Sterling, as an owner of an NBA team, agreed to be bound by the Bylaws that govern all the owners.
The Commissioner, who I thought appeared shaky and scared to death when he made his first statement this past weekend showed me that he has the cajones to do the job. I applaud him for making a swift and incredible decision, granted, he had the country behind him, yet he stepped up to the plate and started his legacy.
Where do we go from here? Sterling and the other owners now know there is no room for racism in the league, but there is always room for a lawsuit. Sterling, a lawyer by trade, will likely sue the League. However, if the Commissioner followed, and the owners continue to follow, the Bylaws Sterling doesn’t have a leg to stand on that I can see. Oh sure, he can complain the recording was illegal and sue his girlfriend, but he cannot close the door to the proverbial barn. Good riddance Sterling.
Author: Monica K Lindstrom
Legal analyst/TV personality/KTAR radio host, former prosecutor/defense atty, wife, mama of 2 boys, sister to teen brother, iced soy chai and barre lover!