Donald Sterling’s racist comments have been the biggest black eye for the NBA since the Malice in the Palace — and it all landed on the lap of new Commissioner Adam Silver, less than 100 days into office.
And he aced the test.
It was exactly the right thing too do.
Silver came down as hard as he could on a Clippers’ owner that has long been an embarrassment to the league — a lifetime ban, a $2.5 million fine and he will start the process to get approval from the other owners to force the sale of the team (something he will have no problem getting). On top of it, he expressed personal and moral outrage at what Sterling has done.
It was everything allowed in the NBA’s constitution. It was everything he could do — and with sponsors pulling out and players (not to mention core fans) livid, he knew he had to come big and take control of the situation. He did.
“Sentiments of (Sterling’s expressed) kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league,” Silver said. “I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and caused current and former players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league.”
Silver dodged some legitimate questions about why the NBA didn’t take action in the past. Silver noted there was no legal verdict against Sterling — he settled the federal housing discrimination lawsuit without an admission of guilt, Sterling won the lawsuit brought by former GM Elgin Baylor — so the NBA made no actions.
That all happened on David Stern’s watch and this mess is part of his legacy.
Silver started his legacy on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.
There is no doubt Donald Sterling will fight this because that is who he is as a person. So much of his ego is wrapped up in being the Clippers owner, in basking in the sycophantic celebrity of it.
But the Silver who stood at the podium and New York and handed out punishment was resolute and strong. A guy not backing down from a fight, a guy not afraid to head into court and make the NBA’s case.
It was the perfect response. One the players loved, that fans love.
One that was the right thing to do.