So… Will the NBA Step Up to Donald Sterling?

Now that everyone, from President Obama on down, has denounced & repudiated racist arsehole Donald Sterling — SB Nation has a whole section devoted to the issue — what’s the National Basketball Association going to do about this stain on humanity? There was a former Clippers player on the local news tonight, saying that nothing could be done as long as Sterling “keeps paying his bills, and he’s paying them.” But Tom Ziller at SB Nation asks, “Will NBA owners fight Donald Sterling as hard as they have fought players?”:

When the fraternity of NBA owners and their hired ringleader — the league commissioner — want something, they tend to find a way to get it done…

Just about any time an owner wants a public subsidy for a new or updated arena, they get it. When they don’t get it, the other NBA owners line up to approve relocation. The vote that killed the Seattle SuperSonics in 2008 was 28-2. When David Stern decided he wanted Sacramento to have a shot at keeping its team, he got it done despite threats from the Maloofs and it being a hard sell overall.

This is important: when Stern has wanted owners out — from George Shinn to the Maloofs — he worked the situations expertly and got the job done.

I have no question that several owners, maybe the majority of them, would like Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers and go rot in a dark hole. I have little doubt Adam Silver wants the same. The question at this point is how badly they want it. We’ve seen what the owners can do to players — primarily Black players, mind you — when they set their collective minds to it. They can win almost $3 billion in salary concessions over a decade. And they shut down the business to get it…

What do the owners and Silver think getting rid of Sterling: a proven racist scumbag, a repeat sexual harasser, a constant embarrassment, a man creating a rather hostile environment for his employees, a destructive member of society, a total idiot and a crummy team owner in a wonderful market to boot. Do they think getting rid of that is important enough to fight for?…

40 replies
  1. 1
    KG says:

    Michael Jordan has ripped him. As has at least one other owner. So that’s two owners who have publicly blasted him. They all know it’ll be bad for business and it can’t be kept quiet like it used to be. But I’m guessing Sterling’s wife is going to fight for the team, based on her statements today

  2. 2
    Punchy says:

    Can the NBA buy it from him temporarily, ala the Phoenix Coyotes in the NHL? Then sell it off later? How does one negotiate a fair price with an owner who doesn’t want to sell?

    BTW, anyone that’s followed how this POS treated Baron Davis knew this day was coming.

  3. 3
    gwangung says:

    Oh, hell. The NBA HATED the Seattle billionaires who wanted to buy the Kings–or at least treated them like crap.

    Yet they think Sterling is A-OK…..

  4. 4
    KG says:

    @Punchy: it goes back way further than that. When Danny Manning was trying to negotiate a new contract, Sterling (allegedly) balked at the amount saying that he was already offering a lot of money “for a poor black kid.”

  5. 5
    KG says:

    @gwangung: they hated those guys because they were going to steal a team from a small market and take it to the biggest market without a team. Or, the opposite that happened to Seattle. And the reason for that is because they saw how the NFL used the specter of Los Angeles to get a bunch if new stadiums and figured they’d be able to do the same with Seattle. Which is just fucked up

  6. 6
    Petorado says:

    The owners, as a group, rely on their perception that they are good businessmen and solid civic citizens in order to get the public subsidies for their sports enterprises. Sterling pissed in that punchbowl, and now it will be a lot harder to get cities to vote for new arenas on the public dime if they come across as a bunch of clubby racists instead.

    The Clippers will have a very hard time keeping any of their talent, attracting free agents, or filling seats next season. I wonder if any of their upcoming draft picks will seek legal recourse to void their selection if they can argue that the racial issue makes them object to working for a publicly racist employer. I’m wondering what the players union will do in that regard.

  7. 7
    superfly says:


    Also, they hated that they were willing to pay for an arena, without making taxpayers pay for it, and setting a bad precedent for others.

  8. 8
    Jewish Steel says:

    @Petorado: That’s a lesson the Ricketts learned in Chicago by being total dickweeds.

  9. 9
    Hill Dweller says:

    I can’t remember who on what network pointed it out(all the comments start to run together after a while), but not only did Stern allow this known racist to keep the team for years, he essentially engineered the Paul to the Clippers deal.

  10. 10
    KG says:

    @superfly: here’s what I don’t understand about the arena/stadium angle for teams: if they were privately financed, then the team owner could own it under a different company and make a few metric tonnes of cash for all the other days the arena could be used… Why pass up that money?

  11. 11
    scav says:

    NBA sure seem to have let it slide for a good long while. If they do anything now, wouldn’t it be more out of PR covering than conviction? Real impetus more likely to have to come from fans, media, corporate sponsors worried about their brands than any internal motivation — granted, I’m at a more than unusually low level of respect for men of a certain age, especially those in business or cowboy suits. Baseline is pretty low at best. But they need to be thwacked hard in the pocketbooks is my guess, and corporate ad money, etc. might be the fastest and best means. Fickle public is Fickle.

  12. 12
    Hill Dweller says:

    As an aside, Portland is desperately trying to choke this game away.

  13. 13
    KG says:

    @Hill Dweller: think that was Simmons on ABC/ESPN

    ETA: Paul is president of the union. Extra fun little angle in this

  14. 14
    James E. Powell says:

    what’s the National Basketball Association going to do about this stain on humanity?

    Bluster, dissemble, blame, and tremble. Then wait for another shiny object to appear.

  15. 15
    Mister Harvest says:

    @KG: Because, in general, arenas are a terrible investment. Very few of them even come close to breaking even, and the owners are perfectly happy to let the taxpayers take that risk.

  16. 16
    Violet says:

    I think they’ll find a way to remove him. Not sure his wife and other family members will be dealt with as easily, though. I hope it’s messy and awful and is another rip-the-bandage-off moment. The more this stuff is exposed the better chance we have of dealing with it.

  17. 17
    jl says:

    Not a Clippers fan since they got good and can interfere with Warriors and Kings on their paths to destiny. But still. First I heard of it, I figure ‘probably out of context’, then hear it’s 9 minutes. Then figure maybe the woman is hanging around with hoodlums or something. But no, it’s, like, Magic Johnson. Then I hear some long extracts from the tape. Ooof.

    Stupid me. Sterling has gotten in enough racially charged (euphemism alert) situations, that I should have known his public non-stench is a thin veneer.

    This will be intolerable to the vast majority of fans, and people, in California. He’ll be forced to sell the team sooner or later, hopefully sooner. (Edit: in other words, if the NBA does some corporate BS on it, I don’t think it will make any difference except over short run)

    TPM blog has decided that all the dirt needs to dished on Sterling with maximum contempt. Look at the posts over last two days. Here’s a start:

    Why Is the NAACP In Bed With Racist Donald Sterling?

  18. 18
    jl says:

    Sterling may have a problem with women too. Lordie, this guy is a piece of work.

    More Good Times with Donald Sterling

  19. 19
    Jordan Rules says:

    Mark Cuban tweeted his disdain for people questioning his no comment stance. Made some good points, but he’s an owner and vested in this big time.

    Never thought I’d see the day when MJ puts it out there and Cuban doesn’t.

  20. 20
    Tommy says:

    I honestly don’t think the NBA will do anything that matters. I mean actually what can they do? Fine a billionaire. Has fining Cuban worked (clearly he never said anything like Sterling). Correct me if I am mistaken, but they can’t exactly make him sell can they? They will just say they need to issue a report , it will take a ton of time (like they did with that racist from the Dolphins), and they hope the public will forget and/or move onto something else.

    The only way I see anything that matters happening is if the players on the Clippers just walk off the court and refuse to play. But I am pretty sure if they did, well they would run into a ton of problems legally. You know their contracts and all.

  21. 21
    jl says:

    @Jordan Rules:

    Local news radio station played some long excerpts. Unbelievable.

    Sterling’s garbage approaches Mel Gibson levels, except without the violent rage-a-holic angle. But other than that, just as bad..

  22. 22
    jl says:

    @Tommy: Players in a hard place. Not only would they be messing up their careers, but damaging the team. The team is a thing bigger than the owner. There have been douche sports team owners forever. The teams go on, and one hopes get a good owner, or series of owners sooner or later.

    Effing billionaire sports team owners. Hell with them.

    Should be more teams like Green Bay, but the douchebag dickhead owners solved that problem by banning them, at least in football. Not sure if there are rules like that for other major sports.

  23. 23
    Jordan Rules says:

    @jl: Sadly enough, those tapes are probably the least disgusting of his racist transgressions. His history speaks volumns and will be why this likely won’t be swept under the rug. The NBA is trying to cover it’s ass cause they know they enabled him.

    One of the biggest housing discrimination settlements in Cali history for goodness sake. And his wife plays a part in it too though she’s trying to distance herself. The legal stuff will be messy. I said yesterday that it’s amazing what the tipping point can end up being – a convo with his young mixed girlfriend after a pic with Magic Johnson posted to Instagram. I’ll be damned!
    He’s a pathetic, disgusting man.

  24. 24
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @KG: San Diego is bigger than Seattle and doesn’t have a team.

  25. 25
    superfly says:


    Staples Center in LA is privately owned and financed, and it is a cash cow, with 3 teams and plenty of events on the other days, but I assume that the numbers don’t add up in smaller markets, with only one team and fewer events, or the owners would tell the NBA “Piss off, we’re building an arena.”

    I just watched this all play out with the Sacramento / Seattle thing (grew up in Sacramento and the Kings were my first “hometown” team) and by the end of it, I was wishing the Kings would go to Seattle and those billionaires would build their arena (even though Seattle spent $100 million to renovate Key Arena in 94-95), because I just don’t see how Sacramento can afford this, and I fully expect the new owners will start extorting the city in some way within a few years anyway, demanding more and more of the revenue and the city will never recoup its costs.

  26. 26
    🌷 Martin says:

    So… Will the NBA Step Up to Donald Sterling?

    No. Because money.

  27. 27
    trollhattan says:

    OT Holy cow, no wonder we’re swimming in guns.

    “Skagit County gun shop may have been worst in US.”

  28. 28
    Big R says:

    @jl: Define “hoodlums.” That’s a hell of a charged term.

  29. 29
    Eric k says:

    That’s misleading though, San Diego has large city limits so the city of San Diego is bigger than the city of Seattle, but the Seattle metro area is larger, it’s the 15th largest media market in the country

  30. 30
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @FlipYrWhig: They used to, they were called the Clippers.

  31. 31
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Jordan Rules: Yes funny that this taped conversation is finally the tipping point which has forced the public to deal with Sterling’s blatant racism. I still can’t get over the NAACP and its relation to this jerk. Shocking.

  32. 32
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @superfly: This was the key point in the NBA vendetta against them as far as I am concerned.

    How horrible is it that billionaires would actually pay for anything themselves?

  33. 33
    NorthLeft12 says:

    This whole sordid affair has really laid open how unequal the justice system is for people with money versus those who don’t.

    Sterling can point to a relatively clean record because he buys off any civil suits against him with suitcases full of cash and then covers it up with an ironclad non-disclosure agreement. He also can point to a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP for giving wads of tickets to Clippers games. A second award was to be given to him but apparently it will be withdrawn. Buying the best legal teams also helps to win cases that you have no business winning.

    Just try and think what would happen to any ordinary schmoe in the same situation. We will see what happens to his girl friend and the charges against her without his support and his active pursuit of a conviction against her.

    The revolution cannot come soon enough IMO.

  34. 34
    r€nato says:

    @KG: OK I wouldn’t go so far as to call this ‘racist’, it’s more an attitude shared by too many people with money, but Sterling also made remarks about “giving” his black players cars, money, etc.

    Look. It’s not ‘giving’, it’s not ‘welfare’ when you negotiate an exchange of money for services.

    I’m a freelancer and have had to work for far too many folks who think that when they pay you money, they own you and you should be eternally grateful and subservient for them helping put ‘food on your family’. That attitude rankles me more than a little bit.

  35. 35
    r€nato says:

    @Jordan Rules: perhaps because Mark Cuban is not exactly the best NBA owner to criticize anybody for shooting their mouth off.

  36. 36
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @gwangung: They were punishing Seattle for not opening up the public treasuries for plundering by the NBA.

  37. 37
    superfly says:



  38. 38
    Jebediah, RBG says:


    Sterling also made remarks about “giving” his black players cars, money, etc.

    Yeah, that crap makes me nuts. You “gave” them money? Like you just walked up to them on the street and handed them cash? Or was it more like “their skill and talent generates a dumptruck full of cash for you and the league, and you let them keep a small fraction of it?”
    I had an economics professor who had done his dissertation on the economics of pro sports. He told us that, based on what players generate versus what they are paid, it was the closest thing to slavery he had seen. “Gave” them money my ass.

  39. 39
    jl says:

    @Big R: I should have been more careful. I meant serious and obvious criminals with conviction records for serious crimes. (edit:: though that would not absolve Sterling of using racial and ethnic shorthand for those types of people, since they could be of any race or ethnicity. I just was wondering when I heard the first reports whether it could be as bad as it seemed. And it was as bad or worse).

  40. 40
    drkrick says:

    The thing that’s going to force him out is if he loses his sponsors, partners and advertisers. It’s not a going business without them, and the stampede away has already started. The inside of the Staples Center may look a bit like Cleveland Stadium the first game after the Browns move was announced – nothing but deactivated and painted over signage.

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