Column: An NBA commissioner steps up
On Tuesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver cleaned up the nasty mess he had inherited, banning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Silver gave Sterling a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine. That’s chump change for someone like Sterling, but it was the maximum fine.
Yes, Sterling will still own the team, paying players and cashing checks, but he has been banned from going to NBA games or practices and entering the Clippers’ facility, and he cannot go to NBA board of governors meetings or participate in “any other league activity.”
The NBA will also try to force him to sell.
Fox News reported that Sterling said he won’t sell the Clippers, but there’s no real point to him owning the team any more.
Silver picked up where his predecessor, David Stern, had failed. Sterling has a history of racial issues and it’s great that an NBA commissioner finally stepped up and did what is necessary in 2014 (or really 2004, 1994, 1984, etc.).
Sterling settled a lawsuit brought by the federal government alleging he avoided renting to black and Latino people. He paid $2.725 million, the largest award the Justice Department has won in a housing discrimination suit involving apartment rentals.
In a separate lawsuit, former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor, who is black, accused Sterling of running “a Southern plantation-type structure” for the Clippers.
Sterling should have been stripped of his ownership long ago.
If Sterling was allowed to remain in control, it would have been a disaster. Drafted players would refuse to play for the Clippers — like they were being drafted to fight in Vietnam, not getting millions to play games — and no one would sign with the team and players stuck there would be labeled Uncle Toms.
Also, the timing of Sterling’s comments was extremely awkward. They came at a time when the first round of the normally painfully long NBA playoffs were producing thrilling first round match-ups, and in the middle of the latest equality development in sports, the LGBT movement.
Openly gay players now compete in Major League Soccer, the NBA and, as of next fall, in the National Football League and Division I NCAA men’s basketball.
In America, which started integrating long before American society as a whole, sports is supposed to be past racial issues for the most part.
Sports isn’t totally pure, but unlike most of our society, it’s a meritocracy. Players do things like get arrested and cheat and leagues like the NCAA do stupid things, but in the end the focus is on how well competitors do. Sports is based on how you play, not what shade your skin color is, at least in the U.S.
Jackie Robinson endured horrific treatment when he broke the Major League Baseball color barrier in 1947, but by the time Rosa Parks began the bus boycott in 1955, Robinson had already been voted Most Valuable Player in the National League. By about 1962, the Civil Rights Movement was gaining steam, but Robinson had already been voted into the Hall of Fame.
With Sterling gone, sports can get back to sports.
—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520