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Sports Fan: No room at the inn for Clippers owner Sterling

May 6, 2014


By Jim Walker
Of the News-Register


Goodbye, Donald Sterling. Your days in the NBA are over, and don't expect a big retirement party hosted by your fellow franchise owners or new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who made the correct decision on April 29 to drop-kick you out of the league — forever.

Silver's decision was backed by the owners, players' union and, undoubtedly, most fans of the sport, who were not happy when Sterling stuck his foot deep into his mouth and uttered some nasty, racist remarks.

The only question remaining after the Silver announcement was, "what were you thinking" when you made those comments to a girlfriend? After all, the Los Angeles Clippers' team he has owned since 1981 has a black coach, a roster full of black players and was in the midst of a post-season playoff series when he committed his unforgivable act.

In addition to his ban, Sterling was hit with a $2.5 million fine, which to the ultra-rich lawyer-turned real estate mogul is a drop in the bucket. But it's a signal still that such racist remarks will not be tolerated in the NBA, and along with the lifetime ban, Commissioner Silver hopes that owners will vote to force a quick sale of the team to potential investors, investors such as Magic Johnson, the man who Sterling asked his female friend not to invite to Clippers' games because he was black, and he didn't like her associating with blacks.

Unfortunately for Sterling, he never visualized the audio recording that captured his remarks would get public attention. But once the media and NBA learned of the audio, the machinery began to operate quickly even though some critics felt the new Commissioner was not operating quickly enough. However, the incident became known just the weekend before Silver's decision, and the Commissioner had to complete at least a cursory investigation before hitting Sterling with the major life-changing penalty.

Sure, Sterling could challenge the decision, but he'll receive no support from the other owners, coaches and players — and the majority of fans, most of whom couldn't stomach his racist remarks. And, in the end, Sterling might be forced to sell the Clippers since the Commissioner is urging the other owners to aid in the process... although some might be reluctant to back any move that could effect their own ownership interests. Certainly, Silver can count on support from many of the owners although he only needs approval of three-quarters of the group to force a sale.

Oh, and if you're one of the sympathetic sorts who forgive transgressions easily, don't worry about Sterling: he bought the team for $13 million in 1981, and the estimated value is currently somewhere in the $575 to $800 million area.

In any event, the decision issued on April 29 sends a solid message to current and future owners, not only of NBA teams but also of any other professional league. Racism, in any form, will not be tolerated, and Commissioner Adam Silver, bow and recognize the applause coming from most corners of society for your gutsy decision.

And, Commissioner, welcome to your new job.

If you have an idea for a column or feature story or a comment, please contact me by e-mail at jwalker@newsregister.com or by phone at 503-687-1274.

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