Ideally, the private conversation that occurred between Donald Sterling and his non-girlfriend girlfriend is never secretly recorded and never leaked to a media outlet that profits from voyeurism.
Ideally, any attempt to remove Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the exclusive club that is the NBA should have fallen to former league boss David Stern rather than new Commissioner Adam Silver.
Long before TMZ broadcast Sterling’s now infamous bigoted and race-fueled chat with his latest little dish, Stern had many chances to justifiably remove a man who had documented racial prejudices.
But this is 2014. Our standards for privacy continue to erode as cellphones have turned into weapons, and social media has become a brutal courtroom loaded with anonymous judges eager to deal justice.
Regardless of these troubling developments, Silver’s decision to permanently ban Sterling from the NBA is not a panic move made by a man looking to score easy points in the public eye. This decision is a long overdue eviction notice for an old man who should have been forced out decades ago under the guise of protecting the best interests of the league.
“It’s unfortunate,” Mavs forward Vince Carter said when I asked him if he was glad or sad. “When you first hear about it, it’s terrible that somebody still thinks that way. There is no room for it. It’s not about your race. In general, it’s not called for. It burns you up inside.”
If Sterling chooses to be ignorant and a racist, that’s his own problem.
And this is where Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and I disagree: forcing Sterling to sell should not be a slippery slope. In this instance, it’s not that slick.
This instance clearly could damage the brand, affect every other franchise and the league office.
As a man who owns a team that operates in the NBA, which grants franchises no differently than a McDonald’s or Domino’s, he agrees to represent something beyond just his “store” that is in Los Angeles.
People who pay to operate and run a franchise usually agree to a code of rules and regulations as prescribed by a corporate office. Who would have ever had the foresight to think to draft franchising rules to include, “Operator cannot be a flagrant racist and/or bigot”?
Despite growing evidence over the years that Sterling was just that, Stern and the league did nothing.
The irony of this lifetime ban is that the people for whom Sterling has such an obvious disdain — African-Americans — are the ones who ultimately, but not deliberately, did him in.
When the Los Angeles Clippers were only about Donald Sterling, which for decades they were, nobody cared about Sterling, the man. That’s why Stern never touched an owner whose reputation was carved in a courtroom. There was no point.
When the Clippers became about “black people” such as Blake Griffin, Doc Rivers, DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul and the other members of the team that have made this previously irrelevant organization a success in the NBA, we cared about Donald Sterling the Man.
The lethal cocktail of a leaked recording with a girlfriend, TMZ, social media and a winning team in the playoffs — comprised primarily of black players — finally was powerful enough to end this man’s reign of ignorance.
Nobody wins with Silver’s decision. Sterling’s words and lack of apology or remorse is another reminder that ignorance about race remains a reality in America. People have to be scared of having any conversation in private for fear of it being recorded.
The only true winners in this will be the lawyers, who should be very busy after Sterling told Fox News he will not sell the Clippers despite Silver’s intention to force him out.
Maybe this lifetime ban is more about Silver trying to protect the NBA’s financial revenue streams than “doing the right thing,” but a business should retain its right to remove franchisees if they violate the code.
If Sterling chooses to be an ignorant bigot, OK. But he can’t own an NBA team.
Ideally, we should not have to spell these things out.
But it’s 2014, and vultures and idiots are not only still rampant, they are armed with smartphones.
It’s time for the NBA to finally evict Sterling and update its bylaws.