As the pressure continues to mount on the NBA and Donald Sterling in particular, let me tell you why the NBA will be dead wrong if they decide to force Donald Sterling to do anything but apologize.
Sterling has owned the Clippers since 1981. In that time, the Clippers have been the worst team in the league and it’s not even close. In ’84, he publicly confirmed that the Clippers were tanking the season in order to get a high draft pick. He has refused to pay fans who win shooting contests between the quarters at home games. He publicly trashed talked his OWN PLAYERS – ask Baron Davis about that one. He has refused to pay players and coaches to keep the Clippers competitive. He’s only had two coaches last more than 4 years in the over 33 years of owning the franchise. He’s made pledges to homeless organizations that he’s never delivered on. He has been charged with discrimination before from two of the NBA’s most revered and trusted names – Elgin Baylor and Danny Manning.
I could go on – just do a google search and be prepared to be amazed at all the baggage of Donald Sterling. Here’s the real head-scratcher in all that time –
The NBA – David Stern in particular – has done NOTHING. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
I take that back. They’ve fined the billionaire owner a little over $200,000 total in 33 years of ownership. Why in the world would the NBA do something now?
Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying this is right or even remotely defending the man. Sterling is at the least, an idiot. We could add racist, bigoted, ignorant, archaic, insensitive buffoon to the list as well. (And if you don’t know what I’m talking about – allow me to introduce you to 2014 and go see ESPN.)
But it’s completely in line with who has been for all these years. The NBA hasn’t seen fit to do anything about it all this time. Players still sign contracts with him. Coaches still coach for him. Sponsors still sponsor. What he said is horrible, but it can’t be a shock. And it’s arguable if it’s any worse than what he’s done in the past.
That’s my question to the NBA – how horrible is this really? Everything else he has done hasn’t moved the needle.
Is it horrible enough for the players to quit playing? The coaches to quit coaching? Fans to quit paying to come see the Clippers? Sponsors to quit partnering with the Clippers? Television to quit airing the game? My hunch is – no, it’s not. Because there is a lot of money at stake. And if the NBA and star athletes in this new generation have showed us anything, it’s that they love money.
That’s not a slam on Doc Rivers. I’m a huge fan of his. He’s in a can’t win position. I understand why they decided to play on – don’t let one man’s ignorance and hate affect the many. I get it.
But I half expected Doc to say something like – “There are some things more important than basketball and paychecks. And while this is a complicated decision – to play on or not – I’ve got to do what is morally responsible to who I am and what I think is right. So I will not coach for this man.”
I don’t see how anyone could have criticized that decision either.
The history and legacy of Donald Sterling is plain to see and this is just the latest chapter. My hunch is that nothing is going to change until it affects the money. Because that is what the current NBA is about and that is what Donald Sterling has ALWAYS been about.