The Donald Sterling saga has developed into one of the most stunning and baffling stories in the world of sports in the last several years.
Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was caught on audio recording telling his girlfriend, Vanessa Stiviano, that he did not want her posting photos of black people on Instagram or bringing black people to Clipper games. Two of the black people included in her Instagram pictures included Los Angeles icons Magic Johnson and Matt Kemp.
As a result, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league front office took swift and decisive action against Sterling, leveraging both a $2.5 million fine against the 80-year-old, and most importantly, a lifetime ban from the Clippers and all NBA activity.
The fine was the maximum allowed under the NBA constitution, and Sterling is prevented from any role in all personnel and business decisions. Essentially, Sterling is stripped of all power but remains owner, is responsible for signing checks and fronting money and is still able to make money off the Clippers.
The next move for the NBA is to remove the title of ownership from Sterling, a move that is possible only if three-quarters or more of NBA owners approve the vote. There is no doubt that owners will approve this, as any vote to keep Sterling as an owner of the NBA will be a black eye for the NBA and the owner of whichever franchise votes to keep him.
Silver and the league office hit a grand slam with the decision to ban Sterling for life given the circumstances of Sterling’s comments and his previous racist actions. Social media exploded following Tuesday morning’s announcement as journalists, owners and players, current and former alike, all praised Silver’s decision to hand out the maximum punishment allowed to Sterling.
Sterling deserves all backlash and punishment that comes his way following these remarks. However, his previous actions also call into question why he was allowed to continue as owner of the Clippers.
Previously, Sterling was accused of discriminating against families with children, and Black and Latino tenants in apartment buildings he owns. A settlement was agreed upon and Sterling never admitted to guilt, but there have been several instances where his racial viewpoints have been called into question.
It was not until the NBA’s hand was pushed by the audio recording that the league chose to take action against Sterling. It is a shame that he was allowed to stay for so long in a league so renowned for its progressiveness in social matters such as this.
One reason that Silver’s decision is so justified is it takes pressure off Clippers fans, players and personnel to abandon ship during an important playoff run. Many were calling for those associated with the organization to boycott, calling into question their morals for non-action.
Personally, I think it is unfair for people to blame players for wanting to continue to play and asking them to forfeit an entire season of hard work in response to an owner’s actions. The players play for each other and the fans, not for the sake of the owner’s happiness. Likewise, fans no longer have to battle whether to continue supporting the team and attend games or boycott and leave the players with empty stands during this critical playoff series.
This is certainly an important day for the NBA and especially for the Clippers organization. There is no room for this type of behavior or these thoughts in sports and the NBA made the right decision to get rid of Donald Sterling. Good riddance.
A version of this article appears on page 10 of April 30, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.