Less than sixty days into his job, less than sixty days after following David Stern, who had a brilliant turn in the office before him, Adam Silver stood in front of perhaps the most intense media glare any sports commissioner has faced since Bart Giamotti dealt with the vulgarian gambler Pete Rose and passed judgement on Donald Sterling.
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With a few short sentences, Silver restored order to the NBA, calmed players who were prepared to boycott, and established his own authority to govern the league.
To call it an impressive turn by the Duke grad is a massive understatement.
Here are his comments, minus the answers to the questions from the media:
Shortly after the release of an audio recording this past Saturday morning of a conversation that allegedly included Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the NBA commenced an investigation, which among other things, included an interview of Mr. Sterling.
That investigation is now complete. The central findings of the investigation are that the man whose voice is heard on the recording and on a second recording from the same conversation that was released on Sunday is Mr. Sterling and that the hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling.
The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful; that they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage.
Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league.
I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and caused current and former players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league.
To them, and pioneers of the game like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Sweetwater Clifton, the great Bill Russell, and particularly Magic Johnson, I apologize. Accordingly, effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA. Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers facility, and he may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.
He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings or participating in any other league activity.
I am also fining Mr. Sterling $2.5 million, the maximum amount allowed under the NBA constitution. These funds will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and its Players Association.
As for Mr. Sterling’s ownership interest in the Clippers, I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team and will do everything in my power to ensure that that happens. This has been a painful moment for all members of the NBA family. I appreciate the support and understanding of our players during this process, and I am particularly grateful for the leadership shown by Coach Doc Rivers, Union President Chris Paul and Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, who has been acting as the players’ representative in this matter.
We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views. They simply have no place in the NBA.
Aside from everything else, we really appreciate the fact that guys like Lloyd, Cooper, Clifton and Russell were honored. The first three entered the league at the same time as the first African-American players in 1950, and just three years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.
Robinson was under a unique microscope, but physically, a baseball field is in many ways less claustrophobic than a basketball gym, not least of all because of the size of the stadium and the field itself and having no roof.
It can't have been easy to have gone through what the first African-American players in the NBA went through. The NBA gyms of that era would be unrecognizable today. Few if any were dedicated to NBA basketball.
The Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden were great exceptions. In 1949, when the league began, there were teams in Ft. Wayne, Rochester, Syracuse, Baltimore, Providence, Pittsburgh, Philly and wherever the Tri-City Blackhawks, where Red Auerbach got his NBA start, played (Davenport, Iowa, Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, as it turns out).
Take the Cow Palace. It wasn't used until the Warriors moved to San Francisco, but it was home to Wilt Chamberlain and Duke's Jeff Mullins. Here's a picture.
For the most part, they were dumps, and dumps which sold beer and were filled (mostly) with mid-20th century white men with mid-20th century values.
So you know Lloyd, Cooper, Clifton, and later Russell, heard every possible racial insult. And you can be sure that those who hurled those insults had lots of company.
You had to really love the game to go through that on a nightly basis, so good for Silver to honor those men.
It's just unfortunate that they had to be associated in any way with Sterling.
Donald Sterling. How long has he plagued the NBA now? Thirty-three years? He's been legendarily bad.
We can't find the details, but at one point we do recall that there was a controversy with the Clippers and towels. Sterling wasn't paying for towels.
Sterling has been sued for sexual harassment and for racial and age discrimination.
Ron Harper said playing for the Clippers was like being in jail, a quote brought up a lot lately.
Yet now he says that his personal relationship with Sterling was good and that he was referring to the many trades made which left him feeling alone.
He also has kind words for Sterling's wife, yet he says Sterling will surely run the team through her.
Given that this all happened because Mrs. Sterling sued Mr. Sterling's mistress, that may or may not happen. Who knows what their dynamic is? Whatever it is, it doesn't seem very healthy from a distance. What happens if the power runs through her? Bit of a comedown for Mr. Hollywood.
Sterling was hanged by his own racist words on one specific occasion. Those words are a proxy for his many other venal actions, but they'll have to do.
His would-be girlfriend has not been talked about very much, though Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has no doubt dealt with similar people during his long basketball life reminds us that she recorded and released a private conversation, which he rightly calls sleazy. He goes on: "Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. She was like a sexy nanny playing ‘pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.'"
For her part, V. Stiviano denies that she is Sterling's mistress, says that she is devastated by what has happened, and also that the recording was made by a third party and by mutual agreement.
Apparently Sterling, a man not fond of blacks and Mexicans (Stiviano is part black and part Mexican), just gave her a $1.8 million dollar apartment, cars and cash out of the goodness of his miserly heart.
The recording implies otherwise.
Whatever Sterling decides to do from here his reputation, such as it was, is destroyed.
He can sue, he might even win, but it'll be fleeting. If he's involved with the team, no one will want to play for him. He's a very wealthy man, but while money might buy him younger women, they can't buy him time.
At 80, what's the point of a protracted lawsuit? Stubborness? Ego? A hope to still have a legacy? Only Sterling can answer.
Sterling has been a stain on the NBA for decades, and it's more than racism. He's a despicable man.
He may to decide to fight it out, but the other owners, who have heretofore tolerated his racism, his sexism, his maladministration of the Clippers, have probably had enough.
It'll take 75% of the owners to force him to sell the Clippers, and if Twitter is any judge, he may be just about done.
And if he is, good riddance. It can't happen too soon.