After a tumultuous weekend that questioned and challenged the moral fiber of the NBA brought about by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his ignorant comments that reared the ugly head of racial discrimination anew, NBA commissioner Adam Silver seized to end all controversy in one fell swoop by imposing a lifetime ban on the disgraced owner.
“Accordingly, effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA,” Silver announced Tuesday afternoon. “Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers facility, and he may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings or participating in any other league activity.”
No “indefinite suspension” or “conditional ban” treatment, only a clear and definitive “don’t let the door hit you on the way out, you racist schmuck” together with a $2.5 million fine (the maximum allowable under NBA constitution) to go with it that will go to organizations dedicated to anti discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and the Players Association.
In dealing with his first major issue as the NBA’s lead guy in his debut season, Silver’s scrupulous, yet definitive action proves golden.
By banning Sterling, Silver sent a clear statement on how intolerant the NBA is regarding racism. And by requesting all the other owners around the league to help him force Sterling to sell the Clippers, Silver wants the powers that be to own up to this issue and be accountable. If three-fourths of the league owners supported Silver’s recommendation, by the laws of the NBA, Sterling would be relieved of the franchise he has owned since 1981. As of this writing, four-fourths of the owners have expressed their support for Silver to oust the NBA’s longest tenured owner.
"I wholeheartedly endorse commissioner Adam Silver’s swift, strong and decisive action with regard to Donald Sterling,” Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon said in an official statement. “These past days have been both sad and disturbing for the NBA family. It is our responsibility to continue as models of the diversity and inclusion the NBA has long and justly represented."
Silver’s verdict has also been met with positive reaction and support from around the league, its players and former players, and by shutting the door on Sterling and this issue, focus can now (hopefully) go back to basketball and what has been one of the most exciting NBA Playoffs thus far.
"The players spoke, they acted, and they were listened to," said former NBA All-Star and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, in behalf of the players association. "On this day, Adam Silver is not only the owners' commissioner, he is the players' commissioner and we're proud to call him our commissioner."
LeBron James broke his self-imposed playoffs hiatus from Twitter to respond to Silver’s sanction and wrote:
“Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league!! Great leader!! #BiggerThanBasketball #StriveForGreatness”
"I applaud the commissioner," said Pacers head coach Frank Vogel. "A lot of people are talking about how we don't need that stuff in our league - I don't think we need that stuff in our world."
To say that Sterling is an isolated incident in the league - or in professional sports for that matter - would be naive. The sad and bitter reality is that racism still exists even in this day and age, but hopefully, this stern message delivered by Silver in behalf of an esteemed and globally respected organization such as the NBA can help further usher in a new era of consciousness, acceptance and equality.
"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 said in his intro before announcing his sanctions on Sterling.
By the end of his speech, Silver had already effectively quashed any questions raised by Sterling's ignorance and proved once again how the NBA has transcended more than just the sport of basketball into a unifying force and its cultural impact and significance around the world.
As a Filipino-American and minority living in America, I applaud and admire Silver for his stance on this issue. I have had my own personal experiences and battles with racism and the ignorance and hate it promotes. Having covered the NBA for more than five years as a writer, Silver's response came as so surprise to this scribe. I've witnessed firsthand how hard the league has worked to build bridges and cater to all in their effort to globalize the NBA, and have been treated with respect and professionalism each time by its representatives and employees. The NBA is truly an organization that aims and fights for diversity and inclusion, in spite of those like Sterling who have managed to fall through the cracks. It's our collective responsibility now to call and get each one of them out.