SBD/April 29, 2014/Franchises

NBA Owners Express Disappointment Over Donald Sterling's Alleged Comments

Cuban said forcing Sterling to leave the league is a very slippery slope
Clippers Owner Donald Sterling is part of "the old guard of NBA owners, a group of men who bought teams before the league became a global phenomenon worth billions of dollars," but now the "new guard of owners could help determine" Sterling's fate, according to a front-page piece by Cacciola & Witz of the N.Y. TIMES. SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said that the new owners are "more likely to press" Commissioner Adam Silver to "do whatever he could to make this situation -- and Mr. Sterling -- go away, in part because of their outsize investments in their teams" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/29). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "You cannot have this man in the league." But ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said of the other NBA owners forcing Sterling to sell the team, "You don't know if they want to set a precedent that gets them out of the league if something like this happens (to one of them)" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/28). ESPN's Dan Le Batard added, "The problem is setting a precedent in which the owners give (Silver) an unprecedented power to just throw people around" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 4/28). 

CUBAN QUANDRY? Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban called Sterling's alleged comments "abhorrent" and said, "I think whatever sanctions are available to Adam, I trust him to take advantage of them and operate under the best interest of the NBA" (USA TODAY, 4/29). But Cuban said forcing Sterling to leave the league "is a very slippery slope." He added, "You've got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do." Cuban: "There's no excuse for anybody to support racism. There's no place for it in our league, but there's a very, very, very slippery slope" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 4/28). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote Cuban is a "big part of the NBA owner's Rich Guy Club." These people "are his friends, making it harder to be so candid about their flaws." It would "appear -- and just that, appear -- that Cuban likes Donald Sterling and simply does not want to bag on his friend" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/28).

ALEXANDER, LEVENSON COME OUT STRONG: Rockets Owner Les Alexander said that he told Silver he "should stab 'a sword' into the heart of Sterling's ownership of the Clippers." Alexander: "I thought that there's got to be a way to disrupt him from owning the team. I gave him the sword to deal with this. I said, 'Let the players become free agents.'" He added, "If you're a player in the NBA you don't want to play for somebody like that'" (CHRON.com, 4/28). Meanwhile, Hawks Managing Partner Bruce Levenson yesterday on Atlanta-based WZGC-FM said if it is proven Sterling is on the recording, he "should be given the maximum penalty for his comments." Levenson: "The league has to have a zero-tolerance policy against racism and discrimination in any form" (USA TODAY, 4/29). He also said that he would "support a vote if one was taken among the NBA's other 29 owners to oust Sterling." But he was "less certain if the commissioner's office has that power" (AJC.com, 4/28). Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman said, “I want to see more owners come out and talk about this and [hear] more reaction from those guys, because they’ve been strangely silent. Even guys who talk a lot have been really quiet” (“Rome,” CBS Sports Network, 4/28).

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING: Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss yesterday in a release called Sterling's alleged comments "reprehensible and disturbing, and certainly are the opposite of how the Lakers feel about the league's players and fans." Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen in a release said the comments "if true, are abhorrent, and not acceptable for the owner of an NBA franchise or anyone in professional sports" (USA TODAY, 4/29). Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert issued "perhaps the most strongly worded statement." He said in the statement it is "shocking that anyone could hold the kind of offensive and feeble-minded views that are being attributed allegedly" to Sterling. Pistons Owner Tom Gores in a statement: "There is no place for prejudice or intolerance in our league, or anywhere else" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 4/28). Pacers Owner Herb Simon said the alleged comments are "appalling, offensive and totally contrary to my core beliefs and everyone in our entire organization" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/29). Suns Owner Robert Sarver: "I would rather not be partners with somebody who has the views that were expressed on those tapes" (AZCENTRAL.com, 4/28). Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog, "There should be zero tolerance for hatemongering" (TEDSTAKE.com, 4/27). 76ers Owner Josh Harris in a statement said the comments "were hurtful and outrageous, and in no way reflect the values and beliefs of myself, our ownership group of the Philadelphia 76ers organization" (76ers). One unnamed NBA team owner over the weekend said, "I no longer want (Sterling) as a partner" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/29). Meanwhile, in New Orleans, John Reid noted the Pelicans are "taking a wait-and-see approach." Owner Tom Benson yesterday declined to discuss the matter (NOLA.com, 4/28).

NOT ACTIVE IN OWNER'S RANKS: Should Sterling part ways with the Clippers, he likely will not be missed at the owner’s committee level, as a source said Sterling is not a member of any of the NBA’s various owner’s committees. While a source said that in the past, Sterling was a hard-liner during CBA negotiations, he has not been directly involved in any of the league’s current committee dealings despite being the league’s longest-tenured owner (John Lombardo, Staff Writer).
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