NBA Commissioner Adam Silver tolerates no nonsense, declaring today that billionaire bigot Donald Sterling has been banned for life from having any association with the team he owns, the Los Angeles Clippers. People across the league, and among the NBA’s broad fandom, expected a hefty punishment, but this has exceeded all expectations. With Silver’s unequivocal stand against intolerance and ignorance, he has put the league at the forefront of an ever-improving tolerant society. Well done.
Of course, Silver didn’t just act by his own hand. He understood, as most corporate figureheads do in our modern mode of thinking, that his response could make or taint the league for generations to come. Plus, he was also pressured by the league’s other 29 owners, corporate sponsors, NBA players (current and past), and the NBA’s worldwide fandom to act with the utmost sense of justice allowed. And he did just that.
On top of the lifetime ban — which disallows Sterling from attending any NBA games, practices, Clippers office or facility proceedings, NBA Board of Governors meetings, and any and all league activity and from partaking in any business or personnel decisions — the Clippers owner was also fined $2.5 million, the maximum permitted under NBA constitutional guidelines. (You can read more about the details of the punishment below, in a copy of the league’s media release, as this is more a piece is to commend Silver for his stone-hard approach to a delicate subject).
Many expected for Silver to take the usual, institutional line on punishing Sterling for his grotesque remarks. Either they would slap him with a considerable fine (by league standards) or suspend him until the end of the NBA Playoffs—or, at worst, both. After all, this is a man who was allowed to operate under the NBA brand for decades despite a rather abhorrent history that seemed to know no end. Instead, Silver let it be known that no sliver of vileness will be tolerated under his watch. With a resounding firmness, and a touch of justified anger, Silver announced in today’s press conference that things would be different from here on out. Whether checked by corporate pressure or not, the NBA has set a precedent for societal responsibility. The First Amendment may offer safe harbor from a governmental body to express whatever you may, but the public sphere and private enterprise are free to chastise at will. Because of institutional dogma, people in Sterling’s position haven’t always felt the same force of societal resolve as some of the rest of us, but a new mode of response has been cast by Silver’s unwavering position.
NBA legend, Sacramento Mayor, and NBA Players Association ally, Kevin Johnson echoed this sentiment, saying during a post-announcement presser outside of Los Angeles City Hall, “These events remind us that hatred and bigotry are far from over in this country. I hope every bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and sees that if he can fall, so can you.”
Because of the NBA’s hard stance on this issue, not only will empires or the mighty fall, but they’ll fall because they decide not to be a part of a world where everyone is worth an equal measure of respect and appreciation.