SBD/April 28, 2014/Franchises

Media Calls For Action Against Clippers' Sterling In Wake Of Racist Audio Recording

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Silver had his first big test since replacing David Stern as NBA Commissioner
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was "a little lawyerly" on Saturday evening in his initial response to racist remarks allegedly made by Donald Sterling, according to ESPN's Michael Wilbon. Saying Silver was "in an impossible situation following David Stern," Wilbon added, "There could have been more outrage expressed. ...We're going to have to see not just a different Adam Silver, but a different NBA" ("GMA," ABC, 4/27). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour wrote Silver had "his first big test" and "he failed. Miserably." Silver "could have sent a strong message Saturday" by suspending Sterling. He "may not be able to force Sterling to sell the Clippers," but he "can -- and should -- make it clear that Sterling and his reprehensible beliefs are no longer welcome in the NBA." If Silver "doesn't have the stomach to do that, then the other 29 owners must step up" (USATODAY.com, 4/27). St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell said, “You got a very restrained Adam Silver. He did not pound the table, he did not put on a show because I think what he was doing as a lawyer was making sure that anything he said ... did not end up hurting him" should Sterling come back at the league (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 4/27). BLEACHER REPORT’s Howard Beck wrote as a “trained lawyer, Silver was predictably restrained in his remarks.” But it “is not altogether clear that Silver can deliver the only sensible outcome: for Sterling to be an ex-owner.” There “is no precedent in this area, and it is legally questionable whether the NBA can force an owner to sell” (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 4/27). In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan writes Silver's next move will be "a defining moment in his career." He "must find a way to get Sterling out of his league, to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, to take a forceful, inflexible stand that Sterling cannot represent a league so populated with black players when he’s made it clear how he feels about black people" (Bergen RECORD, 4/28). In L.A., Jill Painter wrote Silver can "begin his legacy with a landmark move, suspending [Sterling], fining him and forcing him to sell" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/27).

SILVER'S METTLE: YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote the league office "believed Sterling was sick and dying, that he would go away, and only he comes back to haunt and embarrass the NBA again." The owners and the league "deserved for Sterling to reveal himself again publicly as a racist and scoundrel" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/26). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote Sterling, "one of the most persistent and reprehensible ghosts from the Stern era emerged for Silver to deal with." A league source said Sterling's remarks are "almost a gift" to the league if this lets them "get him out" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/26). In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote the hope is that the NBA "finally has a leader with enough guts to finally take Sterling down." Where Stern "once cowered," Silver "must strike." The league "needs to run Sterling out of his office." Nobody "can stomach the idea of a successful" Sterling, and the Clippers "will never be fully respected in Los Angeles because of their owner" (L.A. TIMES, 4/27). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes Silver "inherited an absolute mess." Getting rid of Sterling permanently is "both the ultimate goal and the most vexing issue" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/28). In Philadelphia, John Smallwood writes, "We'll see if Silver has the stones to deliver a heavy punishment to one of his 30 bosses." What he decides "will be the first building block in his legacy as leader of the NBA" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/28). In DC, Jason Reid writes how Silver "will help define his tenure in the league’s most powerful position." If Sterling "spoke those words, he shouldn't remain in the culture much longer" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/27). ESPN.com's Marc Stein wrote Silver and the 29 other owners must collectively "make it clear that repeated violations of common decency ... are sufficient grounds for an indefinite suspension. Or more." If the NBA "can't legally force Sterling out, surely it can muster enough internal momentum -- combined with that public pressure -- to forcefully convince Sterling that he has no choice but to go through with those retirement plans" (ESPN.com, 4/26).

WHO ELSE WILL TAKE A STAND? In N.Y., William Rhoden wondered whether the league's players "will speak out -- or act out -- against Sterling." Rhoden: "What about the league’s other owners? How will they respond? Will they remain silent? Will they issue a collective statement?" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27). In Oakland, Marcus Thompson II wrote the NBA owners' "lack of a stand is ... disappointing." Their "lack of action to this point makes them accessories after the fact." If they "don't do anything now, they graduate to co-conspirators." The owners "are the ones who should have to suffer for such associations, for tolerating such an element among their midst" (INSIDEBAYAREA.com, 4/26). ESPN.com's J.A. Adande writes, "If you're deeply offended by Sterling's views, don't watch the Clippers." Instead, "put pressure on Sterling, Silver and the other owners through the power of profits (or the risk of losing them)" (ESPN.com, 4/26). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote Sterling "must go away now."  That "is Silver's mission" (N.Y. POST, 4/27). Also in N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote the league "needs to fire Sterling," as he has "left Silver little choice" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/27). 

OWNERS' ONUS: In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes Silver “will need his players -- black and white, American and foreign -- behind him as he prepares his club of billionaire owners for a move on Sterling that could get litigious and ugly.” Silver “will need the power of the league at large.” A former NBA owner said Sterling has “been a thorn in the side of the league for a long time. Lawsuits, harassment, you name it. But when people talk about getting him to sell, I’m not sure that would faze him in the least.” If Silver “were to find cause to suspend Sterling, that could buy him time to begin the process of pressuring him to sell” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/28). SPORTS ON EARTH’s Powell writes it is “fashionable to pile on Sterling right now, and so the voices, suspiciously muted in the past, are loud and angry." Since ‘82, every team in the NBA “has changed hands at least once,” except one in the Clippers. Barring “the unexpected” -- coach Doc Rivers quits, G Chris Paul “demands to be traded or a family coup wrestles the team away -- the only person who can force Sterling to sell is Sterling” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/28).  In DC, Sally Jenkins asked, "What is more embarrassing here, Sterling’s naked bigotry, or the fact that for decades the NBA has tolerated him?" The other owners "have some explaining to do to their own players." The "only way to eject Sterling from the league" is through a "backroom deal forged by the owners" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/27).

SAME AS IT EVER WAS? In L.A., Michael Hiltzik wrote, "Nothing will prompt the leagues to take action against a misbehaving owner until and unless they perceive that the behavior is costing them money." An owner "who loses a stadium deal?" That "would do it." An owner who "provokes a fan boycott that actually empties the stands?" That "would do it." Hiltzik: "The smart money says Sterling will wriggle out of this controversy" (L.A. TIMES, 4/27). SI's Lee Jenkins wrote under the header, "David Stern, NBA Validated Donald Sterling With Chris Paul Trade" (SI.com, 4/27). In California, T.J. Simers wrote under the header, "Outrageous Sterling Does Nothing New" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/27). In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro writes under the header, "Donald Sterling's Candid Moment? It's Business As Usual, And NBA Business Is Often Ugly" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/28). In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes under the header, “NBA Has Long Tolerated Donald Sterling’s Disgusting Treatment Of Women, But Racist Comments Could Be Clippers Owner’s Undoing” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/28). SI.com's Phil Taylor wrote the NBA "harbored a racist owner for years and hoped that no one would notice or care, and now it has blown up in the league's face" (SI.com, 4/26). In Seattle, Jerry Brewer writes Silver and the owners "must take a strong stand against racism" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/28).

GOOD RIDDANCE: In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes Silver can make Sterling "go away, for a good long time," and it is "about time" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/28). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote an NBA investigation of Sterling "has been a long time coming" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/26). In S.F., Scott Ostler wrote of Sterling, "The league can’t afford him, morally or financially” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/27). In Toronto, Bruce Arthur wrote Sterling has "always been everyone’s problem, and nobody even pretended to solve it." Arthur: "Well, now's the time" (TORONTO STAR, 4/27). SPORTS ON EARTH’s Shaun Powell wrote under the subheader, “It’s Time For All Of The NBA To Take Action Against Donald Sterling” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/26). In San Diego, Matt Calkins wrote if this were the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell “would swoop in and extinguish this situation swiftly and harshly” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/27). The L.A. TIMES' Hiltzik looks at suits filed against Sterling in the past under the header, “The Donald Sterling Case: A Glimpse At The Dirty Laundry” (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). In N.Y., Billy Witz writes under the header, “Vortex Of Outrage Has Long Trailed Clippers’ Owner.” Subhead: “Sterling Has A Public Record Of Bad Behavior” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/28). In California, Andrew Edwards wrote under the header, “Sterling Has Long Attracted Wealth, Controversy” (Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, 4/27).
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