Apr 28, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
After years of just ignoring everything Donald Sterling has done — the housing discrimination lawsuits, the stories from former players and front office personnel of racist behavior — the NBA seems finally ready to act on the alleged racist comments by Sterling.
If the consciously non-political Michael Jordan is calling for action, you can bet a lot of other owners are pushing for something to be done. They want this mess cleaned up. This is a league that fines players for anything seen as vaguely detrimental to its image — don’t you celebrate a key bucket with the “big balls” dance — and what Sterling did, no matter how private the moment, is a huge black eye to the league.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he has “broad powers in place under the NBA’s constitution and bylaws that include a range of sanctions, and all of those will be considered depending on the findings of our investigation.”
However, Silver’s hands are somewhat tied — he can only do so much.
What he can do will not be enough for some people.
Silver is limited by the NBA’s constitution, which is a private document. What has leaked out from people who have seen it paints a picture that ties Silver’s hands.
• He can’t force Sterling to sell. Essentially the league constitution says the league can only sell a team out from under an owner if said owner is not meeting his financial obligations (not paying his bills) and that is not an issue. Blake Griffin’s checks are clearing. What’s more, Sterling’s style — with his real estate holdings, with everything — is to buy and keep, not sell.
Maybe the other owners could try to force the issue saying, “We no longer want Sterling as a business partner” legal argument, but the very litigious Sterling likely would fight that. And it would get ugly. Or, uglier. And it would drag the issue out for years.
There has been talk the league could force him to hand over the team to his estranged wife as part of joint property laws… but she is her own piece of work. In some of the housing discrimination cases against Sterling it was learned she posed as a government health inspector to gain access to apartments. She was part of the problem.
• Silver can only fine Sterling up to $1 million. That’s the maximum, according to multiple reports. Sterling is worth $1.9 billion dollars according to Forbes, a $1 million fine to him is about the equivalent of you or I getting a parking ticket. It’s annoying, we don’t want to write the check, but it’s not that steep a hit.
• Suspension — this is the hammer Silver really can wield. He can suspend Sterling from any contact with the team or interacting with the front office, keep him from attending games. This would be the biggest blow — for Sterling games are a social, “kiss the ring” kind of event where the people around him gather to enjoy “his team” and “his games.” He basks in the celebrity of it. Take that away and it is more of a blow than any fine would be.
How long a suspension is the question. Through these playoffs for sure (which may not last that long for the Clippers, as distracted as they were Sunday). All of next season seems more reasonable … if Silver can do it. We don’t know what limits there could be on a suspension in the private constitution, but none have been mentioned.
A suspension and fine will not make everyone happy — it does not seem enough for a history of racist issues. This is why David Stern should have dealt with the issue when he could, when he had more serious public offenses that were clearly actionable grounds by the league. But he didn’t, there wasn’t an outcry from the other owners to act. He was seen as the bad owner of a bad team, everyone just ignored him and Stern swept the issues under the rug.
Now it falls to Silver, and the case is based on the audiotape of a private conversation — something not admissible in a court of law (Sterling did not consent to be taped). Combine that with Sterling being very litigious and you have Silver stuck in a spot where no matter what he does some people will be unhappy with him. He has to come down as hard as he can, and even that will have some saying it’s not enough and possibly prompting a lawsuit against him from the other side.
Welcome to the big chair, Silver.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:28 PM EST
Timberwolves enjoying rare win
Jan 29, 2015, 12:50 PM EST
Oklahoma City expected to deal Jackson
Jan 29, 2015, 12:14 PM EST
Spurs guard completes field
Jan 29, 2015, 11:41 AM EST
Thunder star is ridiculous(ly awesome)
Jan 29, 2015, 11:03 AM EST
A mutual parting after season wouldn’t be a surprised
Jan 29, 2015, 10:19 AM EST
‘Person close to Durant’ cites Thunder star’s fondness of Carmelo Anthony
Jan 29, 2015, 9:43 AM EST
Rockets center requires further testing
Jan 29, 2015, 9:06 AM EST
Happy times for Cavaliers. How long will they continue?
Jan 29, 2015, 8:30 AM EST
Sidney is the poster child for the can’t miss prospect that missed.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:00 AM EST
At this point there have been no charges or arrests.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:29 AM EST
The Sixers, Knicks and Timberwolves win on the same day? Isn’t that one of the signs of the apocalypse?
Jan 29, 2015, 12:01 AM EST
The good news is that Walker may return in as little as six weeks, which means Charlotte’s playoff chances should remain intact.
Jan 28, 2015, 11:15 PM EST
The Hall of Famer held the previous record with 33 points in a period, but did so before the three-point line was implemented.
Jan 28, 2015, 10:30 PM EST
This one’s not too bad.
Jan 28, 2015, 9:43 PM EST
Kyrie Irving should have had the NBA Jam announcer calling this game.
Jan 28, 2015, 8:50 PM EST
Barnes immediately played the victim card after receiving the fine, but the NBA (and the video) say otherwise.
Jan 28, 2015, 7:50 PM EST
“Softer but not illegal,” Jackson attempted to clarify.
Jan 28, 2015, 7:00 PM EST
Cleveland is just 1-8 without LeBron in the lineup this season.
Kobe Bryant expected to be ready for start of 2015-16 season after undergoing successful shoulder surgery
Jan 28, 2015, 6:37 PM EST
Bryant will miss the remainder of the current season, and is expected to be sidelined for nine months.
Jan 28, 2015, 6:13 PM EST
One may have to work a little harder to find the late night parties in Cleveland.
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