Adam Silver bans Donald Sterling for life; and earns straight A’s for deeds and performance

by Kent Sterling

SilverThis is the first time we have seen new NBA commissioner Adam Silver set the tone for the league he oversees.  He’s gone on his little goodwill tour of arenas and made many media appearances, but faced no adversity.  Saturday, potentially radioactive adversity in the form of racially offensive and absurd comments made public by TMZ landed squarely on his desk.

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Just over 72 hours later, Silver acted with measured vengeance to show everyone that when wrong is done, he will act swiftly and surely.  Not just a tall, bald, smiling, geeky lawyer fans see only during the second round of the NBA Draft anymore; today he looked like a leader.

We like grading people here, so we assessed Silver’s deeds, performance, and words today and offer grades for each.  It bears mention that I am an exception tough evaluator and have an aversion to bureaucrats in positions of power.

Deeds – A   Silver announced a lifetime ban, a $2.5 million fine that represents the highest level available, and a pledge to force the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers.  He also apologized on behalf of the NBA to virtually anyone who was offended, outraged, or hurt by Sterling’s chastising of his girlfriend for posting pictures of herself with “black people” on Instagram.

For the NBA to compel Sterling to sell the team, 75% of the other 29 owners must vote to expel him.  Expect the vote, if it is public, to be 29-0.  If it is not made public, shame on the owners and Silver for refusing to make this a transparent process.

As it stands now, Silver gets an A because this was the absolute maximum force that could be brought to bear against an unrepentant moron.

As for why Sterling was an owner after the 30+ years of bizarre behavior that included lawsuits alleging racism, it’s unfair to hold Silver responsible as he has only been the commissioner for 12 weeks.

Words – A  Lawyers know when to yap and when to stop, and Silver was perfect is saying what needed to be said and nothing more.  Lawsuits are won and lost based upon the ability to know when to shut up.  Silver could have expressed an even more indignant stance, using wild invective and hyperbole, but he kept it tight and direct while being complete.

Law students who want to know exactly how to speak into a microphone during times of strife should study the press conference performance of Silver.

Performance – A  Really good.  We grade Silver on the curve because he is not exactly charismatic.  He was as compelling as he possibly could have hoped to be.  Leaders should always be in command, and Silver was in charge through the entire press conference.  There were some challenging questions, and Silver answered them honestly and briefly.

This is only part of the final grade for Silver and the other 29 owners who employ him.  The follow through will be even more important.  Sterling is a cantankerous prick, and is likely to go down kicking and screaming.  The pressure will need to be relentless to finally remove the racist Sterling completely from a position at the table for an enterprise whose employees are between 70%-80% African American.

Sterling is a pariah who has been permanently ostracized and marginalized, and Silver played a significant role in word and deeds to get that done today.

Today, Silver joined Roger Goodell as major league commissioners who are serious about doing their jobs in leading their leagues.

7 thoughts on “Adam Silver bans Donald Sterling for life; and earns straight A’s for deeds and performance

  1. Jim Hammond

    Good job Kent! I presume your blog will make its way to the Pacers and they will embrace your remarks and Adam Silvers’ as decisive and punitive. Players throughout the league are in agreement that this action buries the uncertainty of what might or should happen. Hang in there!

      1. kentsterling Post author

        Here is the statement from Herb Simon:

        “I wholeheartedly endorse Commissioner Adam Silver’s swift, strong and decisive action with regard to Donald Sterling. These past days have been both sad and disturbing for the NBA family. It is our responsibility to continue as models of the diversity and inclusion the NBA has long and justly represented.”

  2. Pauly Balst

    I’ll give him a “C”, as in average or typical or opportunistic. The owners knew this guy was trouble for years and years and years, yet did nothing. Only when it broke open was action taken.

    I see it in a manner similar to Pat Buchanan:

    “But there is apparently much more to this story than the rant, as the Times’ Billy Witz relates:

    “In 2009, Sterling paid a $2.725 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department accusing him of systematically driving African-Americans, Latinos and families with children out of apartment buildings he owned.”

    Why did the league not deal with Sterling then for an offense far more grievous than a phone call to his girlfriend to stop making a fool of him with Magic Johnson.

    Former NBA great Elgin Baylor, his former general manager, charged Sterling in a lawsuit with running a “Southern plantation-type structure” as boss of the Clippers.

    And Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post reports on far nastier remarks, as she writes that Sterling said of blacks in 2002 that they “smell and aren’t clean.”

    “That quote,” says Jenkins, “comes from sworn testimony in a 2002 slumlording case against Sterling for discriminating against tenants, not just blacks but also Hispanics, whom he called lazy drunks, and Koreans, whom he deemed too powerless to complain, according to statements compiled by”

    “Sterling’s wormy mind,” writes Jenkins, has been “common knowledge among NBA owners and executives for years, as far back as 1983 when he allegedly called his own players the N-word during a job interview with Rollie Massimino conducted while drinking champagne.”

    “There is no room for Donald Sterling in our league,” says LeBron James. But that was this weekend.

    Which brings us to the unanswered questions.

    How did Donald Sterling get away with behavior, in a professional sports league dominated by black players, which would get a college kid kicked out of school and scarred for life? Have they no morals clause in the NBA? How was Donald Sterling voted that lifetime achievement award by the NAACP?

    1. kentsterling Post author

      If David Stern had done what Silver did, I would agree with you completely. Stern was the commissioner for 30 years, and became a co-conspirator of Sterling’s through his inaction.

      Silver gets a pass on responding to Sterling’s behavior because he’s been in the big chair for three months. While it’s unlikely that Silver would have acted without the smoking gun of the recording, we don’t really know.

      You could argue that Silver did what was both the right and practical thing, which should be worth a C based on the ease of execution, but because there was no way to improve upon the execution, timing, or delivery of the penalty, I came with an A.


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