With pained and clipped delivery, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver lowered the boom on Donald Sterling, the wildly racist owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. After a swift investigation that included interviewing Sterling directly, the longest-tenured owner of an NBA basketball team is now banned for life from any involvement whatsoever with the team he has owned for 33 years.
Most importantly, Silver confirmed what we pretty much knew in our gut: The whiny, adulterous voice spewing racial animus to the woman on the other end of the phone was indeed Sterling.
The central findings of the investigation are that the man whose voice is heard on the recording, and on a second recording from the same conversation — that was released on Sunday — is Mr. Sterling, and that the hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling. The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage. Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse multicultural and multiethnic league.
Sterling was also fined $2.5 million, the maximum allowed by NBA rules. In addition, Silver said he would push to get the votes of the three-quarters of the owners he needs to force Sterling to sell the team. When asked by a reporter how confident he is about getting the votes, Silver’s answer was blunt. “I fully expect to get the support I need from the owners to remove him.” After watching his total-command press conference, I have no doubt he will.
Sure, Sterling will make a ton of money off the sale since he only paid $12.5 million for the Clippers in 1981. Sale estimates go as high as $800 million. And to that, I say, so what? Would the end result be better if he made nothing from his ownership? Yeah, but this is America. No matter how unsavory and loathsome you are, if you sell your profitable business, you should profit from its sale.
But whatever money Sterling gains from unloading the Clippers, he’ll never be able to buy respect. Judging from all the stories about his ugly, lawsuit-filled past, Sterling’s reputation already was tarnished in the eyes of the league and many in Los Angeles. The recording of him arguing with V. Stiviano over being pictured with African Americans — let’s be specific, with basketball icon Magic Johnson! — turned Sterling into a national pariah.
Stiviano: People call you and tell you that I have black people on my Instagram, and it bothers you?
Sterling: Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo … broadcast that you’re associating with black people.
Those remarks and so many gasp-worthy others in that phone call bothered a lot of people, from President Obama to fans everywhere. Silver has been NBA commissioner only since February, when he took over from longtime commissioner David Stern. By dealing with this crisis quickly and with obvious remorse for the damage it has caused the sport and its players, Silver brought a sense of stability to the league and earned tons of confidence in his leadership.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj