NBA penalty appropriate for Sterling
Editorial | League commissioner sets good precedent for zero-tolerance policy
The Clippers made headlines this week, but not because the team is finally in the playoffs. Donald Sterling, the team’s owner, made some disgustingly racist remarks to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, at a game this past Sunday. He apparently had an issue with her hanging out with Magic Johnson, and he was recorded saying, “Don’t put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games. Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
Just in case that little snippet wasn’t enough, Stiviano claims to have hours of recordings that would damage Sterling’s reputation even more.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took swift action against Sterling. Yesterday, just three days after TMZ made the recordings public by, he announced that Sterling is being fined $2.5 million and will be banned from the NBA for life. He won’t be allowed to attend any practices or games, team facilities, or participate in business decisions for the team ever again. This will probably force him to inevitably sell the team, as the ultimate goal is to disassociate him from the team and the league completely.
This is the most severe penalty in NBA history, but given the outright and blatant institutionalized racism demonstrated by Sterling’s comments, it’s definitely within reason. The worst (although unsurprising) part is this was not an isolated incident. In his 28 years of owning the Clippers, Sterling has been involved in controversy the entire time. He’s been involved in various lawsuits for everything from sexual harassment to age discrimination. In 2009, the Clippers’ former general manager, Elgin Baylor, sued him. Baylor claimed that Sterling has a “pervasive and ongoing racist attitude” toward players and that he managed the team with a “Southern plantation-type structure.” He was sued by the Justice Department in 2009 for refusing to rent apartment buildings that he owned to minority families specifically because of their race, and he paid a $2.75 million settlement.
But Sterling’s comments last weekend were apparently the final straw for the NBA. Maybe it’s because the team is now prominent enough that Sterling’s remarks required immediate action from a public relations angle, but either way, it was a timely decision. If Silver had waited any longer to decide on a penalty for Sterling, it would have put a damper on the spirit of the upcoming season for players and protestors who were obviously extremely angered by Sterling’s racism. It was quick, appropriate damage control to ensure that the outcomes of upcoming games are not affected. Silver is a new commissioner — he assumed the position in February of this year, so he only has a few months in his position against Sterling’s 28 years as an owner — but he took a firm stance on this issue and we commend him for it.
It’s disturbing that someone with such a well-documented history of racism and discrimination as Sterling has been involved with the NBA for so long, but at least he’s out of it now. We can criticize the history of the league all we want, but Silver’s decision to ban him for the rest of his life sets an excellent precedent for its future — one that will continue to have absolutely no tolerance for any kind of bigotry or discrimination.