Clippers' owner Sterling should leave NBA

By Steve Sell
April 28, 2014

The National Basketball Association has been rocked to its core and turned upside down in the last 48 hours by alleged racist comments made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

At the time of this posting, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — who recently took over for longtime czar and the almighty David Stern — had not made a final determination about the future of Sterling, whose “alleged” spewing of mindless vitriol was almost unfathomable to believe. Silver apparently is awaiting for authenticity of the tapes though we pretty much know how that’s going to turn out — it’s Sterling’s voice. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out, no matter what the circumstances were or what influences he could have been under when he made the comments.

By now, anyone within a TV set, who listens to sports talk radio or reads a newspaper, has been clued in on Sterling’s alleged damaging comments made to his supposed mistress — all the while Sterling’s actual wife was at Sunday’s playoff game, which makes this situation even more bizarre. His damaging venom toward African Americans has no place in our society, much less in sports.

Sterling’s comments have resulted in a maelstrom of responses by the NBA’s biggest and brightest stars, both past and present. They also have elicited an angry response from President Obama, the country’s first black president. All, in my opinion, are justified.

Sterling, as has been well documented, is no stranger to alleged racism. He has been in litigation over this very same topic in his business dealings. 

If Sterling has such apathetic views toward African Americans, why in the world did he ever buy an NBA team in the first place? Just as baseball and golf are predominantly ruled by whites, the NBA is basically an African American league. More than 70 percent of the players are African Americans and there’s also a number of coaches who are black.

That brings us to Sterling’s coach, Doc Rivers. He’s generally regarded as one of the top five coaches in the game and also happens to be black. Given Sterling’s views, it’s hypocritical that he hired Rivers in the first place. Now Rivers learns he’s coaching for a man who appears to despise and detest anybody the color of Rivers’ skin. How can Rivers possibly continue coaching the team knowing this? And what players would want to play for Sterling now?

The Clippers staged a silent protest before their playoff game Sunday against Golden State. They turned their warmup jerseys inside out, so anything “Clippers” wouldn’t appear. They also wore black socks, black wrist and armbands and star player Chris Paul wore black sleeves under his jersey. It was a show of solidarity, by black and white players alike. I’m sure sharpshooting guard J.J. Redick, a white player, was offended as much as the black players. An NBA team is a band of brothers and when one or more of the brothers is hurt, the others come to the rescue. 

Sterling has not appeared in public since all this broke loose. To be honest, he should probably fear for his life, considering how much anger he has stirred up. The best thing he could do right now is stay in hiding and make arrangements to divest himself of the team. There’s no way he can continue operating a team in the league now that his previously private thoughts have become public. The quicker he unloads the team, the better. Even if he apologizes until he’s blue in the face, the damage has been done and it’s irreparable.

If he doesn’t, Silver should drop the hammer with all his power, provided all the allegations are found to be true. If Sterling doesn’t sell the team, Silver should suspend him for no less than a year and fine him millions of dollars. Silver must send a message to Sterling, the NBA and society in general. Racism will not be tolerated. For all the steps forward that have been taken in recent years, Sterling’s comments are a giant leap backward to the 1860s.