The media has been waiting to find out how NBA commisioner Adam Silver would respond to Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. There was uncertainty as to whether the league would be allowed to punish Sterling for racist remarks and whether or not Sterling actually made them.
The question was answered today when the NBA decided to ban Sterling from the league for life, and impose a $2.5 million dollar fine on the owner. Sterling has owned the Los Angeles Clippers since 1981. The league is promising “due process” for Sterling and will continue to investigate the authenticy of the audio recording, but the punishment has been handed down.
“Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA,” Silver said. “Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers facility. 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.”
Silver also says that he is going to push Sterling to sell the Clippers.
“I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force the sale of the team,” Silver said. “I will do everything in my power to ensure that that happens. … I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners.”
Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story from Dr Boyce Watkins:
1) The NBA makes money largely because it does a very good job of protecting its brand. The stiff and immediate penalty laid on Sterling is a way to chop off the cancerous limb before it infects the rest of the body. This was a good strategic move on the part of the league.
2) The only logical thing to do now is completely remove the stain and lingering smell of the Sterling scandal by replacing him with someone who can restore the team’s brand. That person is probably going to be (and probably should be) Magic Johnson. He has the trust of the black community and can help the team attract/keep talented free agents who probably have no interest in playing for that team right now.
3) The NAACP should be ashamed of itself for the way it has handled Donald Sterling’s long track record of racial discrimination. It’s clear that by giving Sterling a Lifetime Achievement Award just five years after he was hammered by the federal government for housing discrimination against minorities is like holding a surprise birthday party for the rich man who tried to sleep with your kids. It’s clear that this action was the result of a payoff, and shows how vulnerable black leadership becomes when we fall prey to the highest bidder. You can’t take money from everybody.