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Not So Sterling

May 1, 2014

The issue of race is once again drawing national attention. And the source of the discussion is not even political. It is from the world of sports. More specifically, the National Basketball Association (NBA).  

It all started last weekend when TMZ released an audio tape recording between Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend. The sickening beliefs uttered by Sterling shook the basketball world, and the nation as a whole, to its core. 

In his first big test as NBA commissioner, Adam Silver was decisive, severe, appropriately emotional during a press conference on Tuesday. He made it clear that there is no place in the NBA for those kind of vile thoughts and beliefs.  Once Silver’s investigation determined that the comments were Sterling’s, the new commissioner hit him as hard as he could. Hence, Sterling received a lifetime ban from the game. Silver also made it clear that he now intends to concentrate his efforts on forcing Sterling to sell the Clippers.  

Silver said he has the authority, given to him by the owners in the NBA’s Constitution and By-Laws, to ban Sterling for life. This removes the embattled owner from any involvement in the Clippers’ day-to-day operations and keeping him away from any NBA facility until he dies.  

Silver, however, does not have the power to force Sterling to sell the Clippers. The power to force Sterling to sell his team and go away for good rests solely with Sterling’s peers, the other owners. Silver spoke of how he will immediately begin the process of making arrangements for the forced sale of Sterling’s team. A three-fourths vote from the 30 team owners is required to terminate Sterling’s ownership.  

Silver likely will not have to utilize his persuasive skills in getting 22 of the other 29 board members (75 percent) to vote on terminating Sterling’s ownership.  If you have heard the taped comments, can you imagine any team voting against the commissioner on the removal of a business partner who holds such despicable views?  

Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, stepped up.

Heck, even Sterling’s own team may vote against him.  Minutes after the announcement, the Clippers, now being run by Sterling’s son-in-law and the team president, Andy Roeser, issued a statement saying they “wholeheartedly support and embrace” Silver’s decision.  

Everything seems to be falling into place in regards to healing and moving forward. But there could still be a problem.  Sterling will likely not go quietly or without a fight. He already let it be known, prior to Silver’s announcement, that his team is not for sale. In other words, this all could be heading to federal court. So much for healing.  

The media, perhaps anticipating Sterling’s intentions to fight the punishment, have started releasing the past of Mr. Sterling. What we have learned in recent days is that Sterling has always considered African-American people beneath him.  

In 2003 the Housing Rights Center and 19 tenants of an apartment complex owned by Sterling filed a federal lawsuit against him for discrimination.

Donald Sterling, banned for life from NBA.

The tenants accused Sterling of preferring not to rent to Hispanics because they “smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” or to African-Americans because they “smell and attract vermin.” Who did Sterling prefer for tenants? He preferred Korean-Americans, according to the lawsuit, because they “will live in whatever conditions he gives them and still pay the rent without complaint.”  

That was public record. And that was 11 years ago. Sterling eventually settled that and other lawsuits for more than $7 million in damages and legal fees, but the NBA allowed Sterling to continue owning the Clippers.  

Six years after that 2003 discrimination lawsuit, former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor, a Hall of Famer, sued Sterling for age and racial discrimination. Although Baylor later dropped the race charges, and Sterling beat the rest of the case in a jury trial, we heard from Baylor in 2009 that Sterling imagined “a Southern plantation-type structure” for the team, which he wanted “composed of ‘poor black boys from the South’ and a white head coach.”  

Still, nothing was done by the Association. In other words, they allowed Sterling to enjoy himself as owner of an NBA franchise for far too long.  

But now the world has spoken, and it has spoken in disgust for Donald Sterling. The NBA Board of Governors would be deaf not to hear that, and not to hear its commissioner who said Tuesday he fully expected the owners to do as he asks. In fact, he is demanding that the owners vote his way.

Better late than never, the NBA is saying goodbye to Donald Sterling.





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