The 2014 NBA playoffs have been one of the best in recent memory. Unfortunately, the games on the court are being overshadowed by the words of the longest-tenured owner currently in the NBA.
If you have not heard the words of Donald Sterling, they are available on Deadspin, where they also have the complete guide to his racism over the decades. Please, take a long hard listen to this, take a look at the calendar and note what the year says.
It doesn't matter your race or religion is, there is just no place for this type of thinking in America any longer. As much has been said by legendary players such as Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, who is the current owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. Countless other NBA players, media members and sports stars have come out condemning Sterling for his alleged words.
We have to use the word alleged right now. Adam Silver is doing the right thing with the NBA and doing a full investigation. This is going to be his first big task as commissioner, one that he cannot afford to drop. This cannot simply be swept under the rug like his predecessor did with the referee scandal. Silver needs to deal with Sterling swiftly and harshly if he is indeed found guilty.
The question remains: how can the commissioner deal with all this?
The players have already ruled out a boycott and that's a smart move on their part. It doesn't punish Sterling at all. It's a punishment for the players themselves and also the fans. The Clippers are one of the eight teams currently in the Western Conference with a shot at a championship. Boycott the games and they cost themselves a ring.
If the Clippers do win the championship, would Sterling accept the Larry O'Brien Trophy from Adam Silver? There's no way he could stand up on that podium with his players and accept the trophy.
You could give the Clippers the NBA's version of the death penalty by taking away draft picks and knocking down their cap to anywhere between half and three quarters of the league's line. Again though, the real punishment is on the fans not on Sterling.
If the league forces him to sell the team he's going to profit in the neighborhood of $700M. That's not a punishment, that's a reward. Sure, he wouldn't be part of the regal club he's been part of for 32 years anymore, but he would have over 700 million reasons to not care.
If the league did force him to sell the franchise, it for sure wouldn't be to Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer-that is beyond a pipe dream at this point. Silver is set at keeping teams in their current market and he's not going to pull the Clippers out of the 2nd largest market in the United States.
The only thing the NBA could really do is levy a massive fine against Sterling. It's a one-time deal though; he's still the owner of the team, he still makes money from the merchandising, tickets, concessions, etc. Again though, not a real punishment.
Our friend Michael McCann does a pretty good job at breaking down the potential scenarios of what the league could do legally and how "best interest" of the league would come into play in this case.
As a massive fan of the NBA and a progressive human, it's best to get Sterling out of the league as soon as possible in my opinion. The NBA simply cannot sweep this under the rug or hope the problem "dies off" sometime in the near future.
This is simply something the league cannot afford to drop the ball on. If the league is too soft then they will have to deal with the NBA Players Association, and with a labor dispute only a couple years out, you can bet that the players won't forget how Silver and company dealt with this situation.
What are your thoughts on how the NBA should handle this situation?