After racist remarks in a phone conversation between Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano surfaced on TMZ, the NBA had a major distraction on its hands at the absolute worst time. As Magic Johnson, the subject of whom some of Sterling’s comments were directed to, said after the audio went online, this has been the best first round of basketball in NBA history. The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies, for example, just finished their unprecedented fourth consecutive overtime affair.
But perhaps it was also the perfect timing. Despite the initial shock to Doc Rivers, Chris Paul, and the Clippers players, the fact that it occurred during the added spotlight of the playoffs forced NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, to act particularly swiftly. And he did, banning Donald Sterling for life in a press conference on April 29, 2014.
Every player, owner, and media personality has come out in favor of Silver’s decisions, and here on Bases and Baskets, I want to add my voice of considerable appreciation for this decision. There is no room for racism in the United States, and there is particularly no room for it in the NBA—a league whose faces (players) are dominantly minorities, specifically African-American.
Recently Mark Cuban, who initially voiced concern about stripping Sterling of ownership said this after Silver's decision was announced:
I agree 100% with Commissioner Silvers findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) April 29, 2014
Any argument that the NBA overstepped its boundaries is false. The constitution that governs the NBA—which you can read in its lengthy glory here—has three main articles that substantiate Silver’s ruling as legal. The first one states that
The Commissioner shall, wherever there is a rule for which no penalty is specifically fixed for violation thereof, have the authority to fix such penalty as in the Commissioner's judgment shall be in the best interests of the Association. Where a situation arises which is not covered in the Constitution and By-Laws, the Commissioner shall have the authority to make such decision, including the imposition of a penalty, as in his judgment shall be in the best interests of the Association. The penalty that may be assessed under the preceding two sentences may include, without limitation, a fine, suspension, and/or the forfeiture or assignment of draft choices. No monetary penalty fixed under this provision shall exceed $2,500,000.
Adam Silver fined Donald Sterling $2.5 million.
The second important article states that
The Commissioner shall have the power to suspend for a definite or indefinite period…upon any person who, in his opinion, shall have been guilty of conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the Association.
Therefore, it is within Adam Silver's power to ban Sterling for life from the NBA. There are no legal grounds for the commissioner to directly take ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers from Donald Sterling—and he did not. However, Article 13(a) says this:
The Membership of a Member or the interest of any Owner may be terminated by a vote of three fourths (3/4) of the Board of Governors if the Member or Owner shall do or suffer any of the following:
(a) Willfully violate any of the provisions of the Constitution and By-Laws, resolutions, or agreements of the Association.
So, it is within the legal grounds of the NBA to terminate his ownership via vote. I highly doubt there will be a problem finding 75 percent of owners to say “Yes, Sterling should be terminated,” but the answer to that question will surely come in the near future. There is no doubt that the Commissioner did make a decision that "in his judgment [was]...in the best interests of the Association."
Adam Silver and the league restored my personal faith in the NBA—and most of America, as well. Ironically enough, though, V. Stiviano—who changed her legal name to just that in 2010, which I finally learned from this Indy Star article—is apparently “very saddened” by this decision.
How do you feel about this decision? Voice your opinion below in the comments or tweet me on Twitter.Follow @ElijahAbramson