The NBA has been shaken by the revelation that Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, expressed varied and numerous racist statements and demands to a former mistress. The veracity of the audio recording has been validated. The league has acted, swiftly, strongly and appropriately.
New commissioner Adam Silver has thrown the proverbial book at Sterling. He has imposed a lifetime ban on Sterling from the Clippers organization and from the NBA in general. He has fined Sterling $2.5 million, the maximum allowable under the NBA bylaws. Most significant, Silver said he will urge, with all his might, the other 29 team owners to vote force him to sell the team. It takes a 75 percent majority vote, and Silver says he believes he will have that support.
Sterling's words speak for themselves. I need not dignify them by repeating them here. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver did all he can to handle the situation, and in time, salve the deep wounds Sterling has inflicted on his coach - Doc Rivers, his players, team employees and Clippers fans. While I applaud all that has taken place today, one burning question remains.
How did the NBA not know Sterling's mindset before and do something preemptive to get him out of the sport before now?
Sterling earned most of his fortune, estimated to be $1.9 billion, in real estate. In 2009, Sterling agreed to pay a then-record $2.725 million to settle allegations that he discriminated against African Americans, Hispanics and families with children at several of the many apartment buildings he owns in greater Los Angeles. He claimed the settlement was a compromise and not an admission of guilt. One hundred thousand dollars of that money went to the government as a penalty. Mind you, the settlement, at the time, was the largest-ever involving discrimination in apartment rental properties. It's a matter of court record. If Sterling didn't commit these acts, why would a man of his individual wealth not fight the case in court?
There have been other allegations and lawsuits, some won and some lost, against Sterling claiming racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and in the case of NBA Hall of Famer and former Clippers' general manager, Elgin Baylor, age discrimination. Sterling somehow prevailed. Sterling, by the way, is 81.
Sterling is the guy wearing the black hat right now, but he's not the lone Ranger, by any means. Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times accurately points out the following concerning Sterling's beliefs: "This was even worse than Calvin Griffith in Waseca, Minn., in 1978, saying he was happy to have his Twins there because there were more white people in the state. Worse than Jimmy 'The Greek' Snyder in 1988, suggesting black athletes are better because they were bred for it from the days of slavery. Worse than (former Dodgers general manager) Al Campanis in 1987, wrestling with 'lack of necessities.'"
Donald Sterling's beliefs are his own, and not illegal. But they are immoral, insensitive, hurtful, bigoted and have no place in professional sports. Good riddance. Sterling should walk away from the game and enjoy his hate all by himself. And, if he can't do it by himself, I trust the other owners in the league will be glad to assist him.