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Volume 24 No. 113

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NBA and NBPA formed "an unlikely alliance in wrestling day-to-day control" of the Clippers away from Owner Donald Sterling, according to Ben Bolch of the L.A. TIMES. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's "sweeping sanctions against Sterling ... represented a coordinated effort between sides that have long battled over issues large and relatively small." NBPA President and Clippers G Chris Paul said that Silver and the league office "had 'given us a lot of input' into the fate of Sterling and the union and the league remained in constant communication from the time Sterling's comments became public late Friday until his punishment was announced Tuesday morning." Several NBAers said that those acts of inclusion "could help unify the league and players' union." That notion is a "departure from the often contentious relationship the sides have long shared." Paul said, "I think we have an opportunity to be partners in everything we do moving forward." But Bolch notes not everyone "thinks the accord will necessarily generate long-term implications." Clippers G J.J. Redick said, "I do think if you are not racist and you're not an ignorant person, it's easy to get behind anti-racism. So for the two sides to get behind that to me is a no-brainer. I don't know what that is going to look like in three years when we're negotiating our next CBA if we decide to opt out or if they decide to opt out. Those negotiations are generally pretty contentious" (L.A. TIMES, 5/1). Heat G Dwyane Wade said, "An ugly time for the NBA became a good time for the NBA in the sense of togetherness" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/1). But in N.Y., William Rhoden asks, "Where does the NBA go now?" With the "public flogging over, some will declare the issue dead and the bad guy in the black hat vanquished." If that is the result, we will "all miss a golden opportunity for a deeper exploration of racism." The players "suddenly have an opportunity to energize their union." They also have an "opportunity to set a tone for respectful relationship with one another" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/1). In DC, E.J. Dionne notes the players "showed how possessing real power can bring about change within a few media cycles" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/1).

LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE: In DC, Rick Maese writes under the header, "Over Four Days, The Donald Sterling Story Led To Seismic Changes To Los Angeles Basketball And The NBA." The entire Clippers franchise was "trying to reconcile the team's mission with its owner's character." Many team employees "banded together, more loyal to the team and co-workers than the owner." One former Clippers employee said, "There wasn't a real connection between [Sterling] and the staff. I think the only times there was really a social gathering was at these annual 'white parties.' It was this big party at his place in Malibu where he'd invite Clippers staff, celebrities and friends, and everybody had to wear white" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/1). Former NBAer Pooh Richardson said of Sterling, "He's always been a distant kind of guy; he never really associated with the players that much. You're not asking to be the best friends with an owner, but when the owner doesn't talk to you ... you could feel the coldness in him" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/1). In L.A., Melissa Rohlin noted Clippers F Blake Griffin "didn't quite realize how big the fallout was going to be." Griffin said, "I don't think any of us really knew how big that was going to be, just because we didn't really know the magnitude. We hadn't heard anything" (, 4/30).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver knew the Donald Sterling scandal was "bigger than basketball," so he wrote an e-mail to former White House adviser Doug Sosnik asking for "any suggestions," according to Ron Fournier of the NATIONAL JOURNAL. The NBA is "one of several private sector clients who pay Sosnik handsomely for his crisis-management experience in politics." He has "advised the NBA for about 10 years." Silver's handling of the "explosive situation is a textbook example of crisis management: Gather the facts, determine a strong response, build consensus among natural allies and potential rivals, and announce the decision in firm and clear language." Sosnik said, "It was real leadership." Fournier notes there are four lessons that leaders "could learn from Silver's performance." No. 1: "Don't parse your words." Silver's opening statement "included unqualified contrition and accountability ('I apologize'), along with a clear explanation of wrongdoing and response." No. 2: "Don't waste your words." Sosnik said, "People have been talked at to death. That's particularly true of young Americans; they're really looking for action. They see action as the true measure of a leader, not words." Fournier noted Silver "replied in just 83 words" to the first five questions he was asked. No. 3: "Share credit." Silver "thanked his allies, including members of a union that could have been an obstacle to his effort." No. 4: "Keep your audience focused on a mission, preferably one that calls them to a cause bigger than one's self" (, 4/29). PR WEEK's Lindsay Stein asked eight PR experts to weigh in on how Silver "set a crisis-management standard" (, 4/30). In Hartford, Dan Haar looked at "8 Crisis Management Principles Adam Silver Followed Deftly" (, 4/30). In DC, Jena McGregor wrote Silver's actions have "brought him great credibility among the NBA's players, as well as its fans, which should help set the tone for his tenure." He offered "a rare combination of authority, candor and certainty" (, 4/30). CBS Sports Network's Jim Rome said, "Silver did not just win the room, he won the Internet." YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski added, "He did something that you haven’t seen in the league in a very long time. He unified every front from owners, front office management, obviously the players" ("Rome," CBSSN, 4/30). 

PLENTY OF QUESTIONS REMAIN: An AKRON BEACON JOURNAL editorial states the NBA "hardly has been alone in looking the other way" when it came to Sterling. But Sterling "crossed the line flagrantly and most publicly, and the league has responded swiftly and appropriately to his behavior" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 5/1). But a N.Y. POST editorial states no one "in this tale comes out looking good." The NBA "now professes shock at views known for years" (N.Y. POST, 4/30). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes after a "dizzying, disquieting stretch, is it correct to rush back to business as usual?" The league has "other questions to address -- chiefly, its failure to act before on troubling accusations about Sterling." With the public "at a boil, the league was quick to throw the book." But Silver and league officials "would be foolish to consider the matter closed or decline to address the past" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/1). ESPN’s Jemele Hill said of the league's response, "This idea that the NBA deserves to get some kind of extra pat on the back, I am not so sure I can go there considering the fact that they have been the safe-haven for this thirty-year problem that is known as Donald Sterling to exist." However, she added of Silver, "He was polished, he was poised. He came there with a message that people like Donald Sterling aren’t to be tolerated in the NBA." ESPN’s Michael Smith added, “I think Adam Silver deserves every bit of praise and credit he is getting” (“Numbers Never Lie,” ESPN2, 4/30).

The combination of "scheduling conflicts" with Radio City Music Hall and "other cities eager to host what has become a hugely popular event could result in New York losing” the NFL Draft as early as ’15, according to Gary Myers of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The draft moved to Radio City in ’06, but the NFL’s deal with the venue "is for this year only with options for the future.” A league source said, “If a decision is made that the NFL draft leaves New York, I’m sure it will be a competitive bidding process. It hasn’t been discussed placing it in any particular cities. Around six cities have approached the league and said, ‘When you’re ready to move, we’re ready to host it.’” Myers notes if the NFL “opens it up to bidding, there will be a long line” at Commissioner Roger Goodell’s door. One plan being considered is “holding each of the three days of the draft in three different cities,” but whoever gets the third day is “going to feel cheated.” The NFL “pushed back this year’s draft two weeks until May 8-10 because Radio City had scheduled a spring show that conflicted with the league’s plan to hold it as usual the last week of April,” and the league “has been told Radio City is developing a show for next year.” The NFL “loves the camera appeal that Radio City provides for the NFL Network and ESPN.” Radio City, with 4,000 seats, is “considered the only viable venue in Manhattan to handle the draft” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/1).