Some thoughts on the NBA and Sterling

The major news yesterday seemed to be the decision by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to hand down a lifetime ban for LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling. For those who missed it, that shining example of journalism, TMZ (if I remember correctly) aired a tape of someone it identified as Sterling saying racially insensitive comments to his then-girlfriend.

I’m not going into whether or not Sterling actually said the comments. Silver has said the NBA has confirmed it was Sterling’s voice on the tape and I’m going to assume he wouldn’t say this without actually having the confirmation. Nor am I going to deny that what Sterling said was racially insensitive. There is no question that the comment was offensive.

However, the source of the tape is possibly the former girlfriend, a woman it has been reported has a history of going out with older, richer men and then basically threatening them with law suits and possibly divulging information that they don’t want made public if they don’t pay her off. She is currently in the middle of suit and counter-suit with Sterling’s wife. So I have to wonder if Silver had time to verify that the tape hadn’t been altered in any way. But that is just me after seeing one too many instances of the media creatively editing video and audio so it fits the story they want to tell, not necessarily reflect what actually happened.

Then there is the troubling goal that Silver has announced. He wants the NBA board to force Sterling into selling the team. To do so, 75% of team owners have to agree. Whether Silver can get that kind of support or not, I don’t know.

My issue with forcing him to sell is that it is starting down a very slippery slope. If you’ve been on Facebook recently, you’ve probably seen some of the posts condemning Chase for closing accounts of people who act in porn videos. There has been speculation that the government might be behind this somehow. There has been a hue and cry about it because there has been no proof that these people, or the money in the accounts, are doing anything illegal. It is all innuendo and assumption.

Add in the fact that, the public at least, has only heard a short snippet of a comment — less than a minute’s worth — and it is without context. Does that excuse the comment? No. But context is important. So is the expectation of privacy. Where was the comment made? If it was made in a pubic setting, then Sterling needs to be punished for being foolish enough to say it where others could hear. If it was made in the privacy of his own home, well, slippery slope.

With regard to Sterling, yes, he said something horrible. But what he said isn’t illegal. When the thought police have enough power to start forcing people who don’t fall into lockstep with what is currently acceptable, well, we’re in trouble. Just because we happen to be on the right side today doesn’t mean things won’t change and we won’t find ourselves on the other side one day. So I have a hard time accepting the fact a man can be forced to sell assets when he hasn’t broken any laws, civil or criminal.

What has been overlooked in all this is that Sterling has been recognized by the NAACP for donations he has given in the past and there were plans, plans which I am sure have now been scrapped, to honor him again.

Sterling deserves to be punished. He knew the NBA rules and he violated them. However, I’m not willing to say he deserves to be forced to give up his team without more evidence. One statement is not, at least not to me, enough to force action that drastic. If there is a pattern of this sort of behavior, then it should be noted. However, if this is simply the fallout of a love affair gone wrong — whether or not the tape had been doctored — then, well, the punishment doesn’t fit the so-called crime.


About the author

Writer, proud military mom and possessed by two crazy cats and one put-upon dog. Writes under the names of Amanda S. Green, Sam Schall and Ellie Ferguson.


  1. Here is my opinion– mind you– it is mine alone.
    This whole thing stinks to high heaven. First, the whole blow up happened extremely quickly and the punishment was given during the adrenaline rush of making him pay. Makes it suspicious in my mind.

    Second, this sets a precedent. If a person doesn’t go lockstep with the other thought police, then they will lose everything. That they picked a man who was a quite slimy and insensitive was a really good way to get other people to hop on the bandwagon. The slippery slope in this case is that if we agree that he is a slimy character and should be overpunished just because he is slimy, then when it gets to be our turn to face the thought police, we won’t have a leg to stand on. Yes– I am using old old sayings to make my points because they are so so true.

    Third, I don’t like him. I think he is an adulterer with a mouth problem. I also know that it is so easy to edit tapes … even easier when it is digital. Do I think he should be punished for being an ass? No. Should he lose his money to his wife for breaking his contract with her? Oh, yes… but not to the NBA … it should go to the wife.

  2. I keep seeing “right thinkers” saying that free speech isn’t without consequences, and that this life time ban is just that – a consequence.

    There is a difference between consequences and retribution.

    Google NBA and assault and look how many hits you get. (I got over 23,000 this morning; I didn’t read more than the first page) What punishment did they get from the league? A suspension. Now, I will add the caveat that none have been convicted. I do know of one case back in the 90’s where a player attacked his coach – and got his hand spanked.

    Last time I looked, assault was a crime. Being a racist isn’t a crime – yet.

    A NBA player was charged and convicted of, a weapons offense in DC. His punishment, a one year suspension.

    Having a weapon in the arena was against league rules, and against the law in DC at the time. Being a racist isn’t against the law – yet.

    Mr. Sterling is recorded (presumably without his knowledge, which I do believe isn’t kosher in CA.) saying some not so politically correct things. I note that he never used the N word in the recording I heard. A rule was broken, one which he reportedly has broken time and again, but no Law was broken. His punishment – life time ban.

    Where is the equity? This isn’t consequences, this is retribution.

    This is trial by the media and the judges bowed under pressure from the sponsors, who are afraid of losing money.

    It seems that Good Speak/Think is here.

  3. I don’t follow the NBA, but I’ve seen some of the articles on Sterling, and he doesn’t seem like a nice guy. But, banning him and forcing him to sell the team for something he said seems way over line. The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. There was an article about 10 other sports figures that received lifetime bans from their respective sports, and in almost every case what they got banned for was also illegal.

    If I thought the NBA, or any other league, would do this out of Moral Convictions rather than being Politically Correct I may cheer it. But, unless they start handing out lifetime bans for people in the league committing real crimes (Sprewell choked his coach, Ray Lewis obstructed the investigation into a murder he was involved in) rather than thought crimes I find no reason to see it as anything other than a double standard where racist and homophobic remarks are continually made by players with no consequences. I’ve even seen people excusing these public derogatory statements, but condemning closed door statements of the same type. *head spins*

    Nope, this is just another round of PC double standards playing out in the media.

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