Fiasco. Failure. Catastrophe. Disaster. Mess. Ruin.
All synonyms for “debacle”. Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling is, in some way or another, at least part of the above words himself, or has caused that word to occur. The definition of debacle is “a sudden and ignominious failure; a fiasco.” A fiasco, indeed.
However, nothing about this situation was “sudden”, sadly. Sterling’s archaic and demeaning views regarding African-Americans have been well-documented, and things have finally come to a head. The NBA had hoped that the old, cranky racist would pass away before something like this ever occurred, but they simply cannot run from it any longer. Alas, the sport’s brand new commissioner, Adam Silver, will be forced to hand down sanctions on Sterling’s organization.
And it’s a tricky situation. There are various incidents across sports that provide a loose precedent for what Mr. Silver must do in the midst of a fantastic first round of the playoffs, but nothing is apples-to-apples. And to make matter even worse, the Clippers employ an African-American coach (Doc Rivers), and superstar Chris Paul is the president of the players’ union. Talk about a mess.
There are so many moving pieces and legal issues that will prevent the league office from acting as though they’d prefer. Yanking a team away from ownership seems unlikely, and it’s absolutely a murky sort of thing to explore. Basketball sanctions are iffy simply because Sterling himself seems to be the only person that should be penalized. This wasn’t a directly basketball-related infraction, like the Timberwolves’ Glen Taylor was guilty of with the Joe Smith situation.
This was not related to the on-court product, as the players, coaches, and front office had nothing to do with Sterling’s comments. The fans don’t deserve to be punished for an 81-year old man’s hateful prejudices. Doc Rivers and Chris Paul certainly shouldn’t have to put up with it.
Yes, the league is stuck between a rock and a hard place. No doubt, Silver would like to come down hard in his first major disciplinary action as commissioner. But he can’t hurt the Clippers’ playoff run, or directly effect the ability of the players or coaches to conduct their daily business and do their jobs effectively.
Look for some sort of draft pick sanctions, along with a lengthy suspension for Sterling. He could be kept away from Staples Center for the remainder of the playoffs plus an additional entire season. It’s hard to see Silver forcing the team to change hands, but it surely will be explored.
As far as Sterling himself…what is there to say? He’s a deeply racist man, clearly, and I’m not sure it necessarily says anything about NBA owners in general, sports owners as a whole, or anyone else. It’s simply a one-off situation of an old-timer that just doesn’t quite get it. And it’s sickening, no doubt.
Stay tuned tomorrow to see what Commissioner Silver does. It’ll be intriguing, and we’ll have reaction here at DWW.