Much ink has been spilled over the taped conversation between Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his alleged girlfriend V. Stiviano that was publicized over entertainment gossip site TMZ. In the recording, Sterling was having a fight with Stiviano asking her to stop bringing black people to Clippers games. He also chastised her for taking pictures with blacks and posting it on her Instagram account.
These statements caused a firestorm not just from the NBA and its players but all around the world. Even US President Barack Obama weighed in during his recent Asian visit and said that he found the remarks “incredibly offensive.”
Newly-minted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, faced with a full-scale revolt since teams threatened to boycott the playoffs, announced this week a lifetime NBA ban on Sterling and a $2.5 million fine – maximum need to pay fines amounting $2.7 million in 2009 to settle claims by the Justice Department that he engaged in discriminatory rental practices against Hispanics and Blacks. In the same year, Sterling was sued by longtime Clippers executive Elgin Baylor for employment discrimination but this did not prosper. How Sterling continued to be a major part of the NBA is beyond me.
Already, several personalities including Magic Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, and Floyd Mayweather have expressed interest in acquiring the Clippers. However, this is easier said than done. Sterling has said that the franchise is not for sale and he has threatened to sue the NBA and owners who will vote for him to let go of the franchise. Such litigation would place the Clippers’ future in limbo for several years which may damage it beyond repair.
At present, the franchise is valued at nearly $600-million. Sterling purchased the franchise in 1981 for $12.5 million. Penny pinching and bad management decisions gave the Clippers the title “worst franchise in professional sports.” It is only with the recent entry of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin that the Clippers are relevant again after more than 30 years of being the league’s whipping boy.
It is unfortunate that this scandal is happening at a time when the Clippers have turned the corner. This is their best regular season ever with a 57-25 win-loss record. They can advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs if they beat the Golden State Warriors.
The NBA took a strong step towards ending racial discrimination but it will hurt before it gets better.