Adam Silver will step to the podium in Manhattan Tuesday with a lot of pressure on his decision — in the wake of the racist comments allegedly from Donald Sterling NBA players are up in arms, sponsors are pulling out, fans are outraged and the league is suffering a huge black eye in the middle of what should be a celebrated playoffs.
Adding to the pressure — players union representative Kevin Johnson is demanding Sterling be suspended indefinitely.
Johnson, who is aiding the union in its search for an executive director, was asked by union president Chris Paul to help them through this situation. Johnson took to Facebook to ask for the stiffest penalty available for Sterling. Here are some highlights from his comments.
As an African-American man I know firsthand that racism is still alive and well in our country. But as a former NBA player I also take heart in the fact that sports is one venue in which we can bridge the racial divide. Why? Because when people play on a team together, it unites them regardless of their differences. I didn’t care if a teammate was white, Black, Latino or even green. What I cared about was whether they worked with me to win. When fans rally around a team you see people of all walks of life hugging, screaming together, high-fiving and backslapping without regard to their color, creed or nationality….
Current and former players are in strong agreement that Mr. Sterling and his views have no place in our league. To that end, the NBPA has asked Commissioner Silver to impose the most severe sanctions possible under the NBA bylaws. We may not have the power to force Mr. Sterling to sell his team, but make no mistake, we believe that Mr. Sterling should no longer have the privilege of being an owner of an NBA team. After all, how can we expect any player (the majority of whom are African-American) to want to work for him?
At a minimum, Mr. Sterling should be suspended indefinitely, banned from games, slapped with the maximum fine possible, and forced to extract himself from basketball operations. He should be required to name someone from his executive team or family to take over all duties related to the Clippers.
I think Johnson and the players will get their wish.
Silver has the backing of owners who are coming out in droves in opposition to Sterling (something they should have done long ago, but that’s another discussion). The other members of the club are done with Sterling, which gives Silver leverage.
Silver has to do something big and dramatic. What Johnson is doing is asking for the best he can do under the NBA’s constitution — a fine ($1 million or $2.5 million, depending upon who is telling you what is written in the secret NBA constitution) and a suspension.
Then the league office can look for a way to pressure Sterling to sell the team. That will not be easy (it’s not in his nature to sell, and he is litigious and will fight this). That will take time. So Silver will take the biggest steps he can.