Donald Sterling has faced harsh judgment from the NBA community, his own Los Angeles Clippers and the public at large for days. But on April 29, Sterling finally learned his binding punishment from NBA commissioner Adam Silver for his recently revealed racist remarks. There was much speculation on how much the league could punish Sterling, and whether Silver was willing to face a legal fight from him -- yet his decree of a lifetime banishment suggest he's in for the long haul.
Not only is Silver prepared to ban Sterling from the Clippers and the NBA, he issued a $2.5 million fine and will begin plans for the sale of the team. According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, "several groups," including one led by none other than Magic Johnson -- whose association with Sterling's girlfriend triggered his remarks -- will be part of a bidding war that could exceed $1 billion.
The Clippers and their fans needed to hear this decision before Game 5 of their series with the Golden State Warriors at 10:30 p.m. est. Considering the debate over whether the Clippers and their fans should even show up at the Staples Center tonight, or at any other game until Sterling is removed, Silver had to go a long way to appease them.
ESPN's Keith Olbermann argued for days on Twitter that the Clippers should threaten to strike until Sterling is removed. However, he conceded that Silver's punishment "obviates the need" for such action, although time will tell if others are as easily satisfied.
This is perhaps the longest way Silver could have gone, although the fight is far from over. The owners still need to vote Sterling out for good on a 3/4'th majority in the future, with a long appeal process likely no matter what. Considering Sterling's deep pockets, his history of lawsuits and countersuits, as well as a history of being tone deaf to backlash, little suggests that he will go quietly.
The best the Clippers and the NBA can hope for is that things will quiet down for at least the next month, and that Silver has his ducks in a row. But now that he has played a rather harsh hand, the Clippers and their fans may be able to play and cheer on with a clear conscience. Whether Los Angeles can focus enough to win is another matter altogether.