The release of racist comments allegedly made by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling by TMZ and Deadspin sheds a highly unfavorable light on him and his team ownership. It also tars the NBA.
How quickly the NBA manages to cleanse itself depends upon how quickly the owners use their power and influence to force Donald Sterling out.
While it is true that the NBA has a commissioner, Adam Silver, he is the employee and the mouthpiece for the ownership collective. As such, his power over individual owners is limited. The NBA constitution is not public; it is difficult to outline what powers a commissioner has but his powers over players and other aspects of the NBA are swift and broad as it pertains to player discipline.
Article 35 of the NBA constitution has been cited as giving the commissioner strong powers that enable him to make decisions that can have dramatic impacts on the league. Does that article give him the power to force owners out of the league? No one seems to have the answer to that question.
What can make a difference and force an expeditious sale of the Clippers is direct action taken against the NBA in general and against the Clipper organization specifically.
Only rich guys can hurt rich guys.
State Farm Insurance is withdrawing its sponsorship of the L.A. Clippers as of this morning. It would have a greater impact were they to withdraw sponsorship of all NBA teams. Nike is the official sponsor of the NBA and should consider a broader rejection of sponsorship so long as Donald Sterling or any member of his family remains in any capacity with the NBA organization.
Punishing the league may seem extreme for the sins of one owner; however, without the rest of the league owners banding together to oust Mr. Sterling, he most likely will remain an owner in spite of his bigoted view of 75 percent or more NBA players.
Fans could help by refusing to purchase tickets. If tickets have already been purchased, then, fans can avoid putting money in the pockets of Mr. Sterling (and all other owners until they act) by not patronizing pro shops, souvenir sales or concession stands.
This is an opportunity for companies and team owners to step up and make a socially moral statement in support of civil rights and moral justice. The NBA was quick to take credit for hiring the first openly gay professional player and to use that hiring as a badge of courage and honor.
Good for the NBA; but this was a case where one team contracted one openly gay player to team with 10 other players under one owner. Mr. Sterling's actions impact over 75 percent of the players in the league spread out over every NBA team.
For the record, those minority players have increased the value of Sterlings' franchise from $15 million at purchase to nearly $700 million-$1 billion in value today.
Let all of us make clear to all owners and sponsors that there is no moral equivalence in accepting a gay minority player in exchange allowing a fellow owner to harbor such animosity and race-based hate for his employees and all of the minority players who are, in fact, the league's main superstar attractions.
No one can force ownership to act responsibly or in their own rational self-interest, but we can make it clear that bigots and racists have no place in accepted society.
Editor's note: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday suspended Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life, fined him a league-maximum $2.5 million, and if the majority of the other team owners agree with the commissioner's recommendation, Sterling will be forced to sell the team.