New NBA commissioner Adam Silver has banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life and says he will attempt to force the team to be sold, a task which Silver’s predecessor David Stern dodged for decades. Sterling’s recent racist comments have left Adam Silver no choice but to take him on directly, just months after taking over the job. But part of the reason Silver is facing such a mess is because Stern never did bother to address Sterling’s looming character issues. When the Sterling was sued by the federal government for discriminating against minorities when it his rental properties, when former black employees accused Sterling of mistreatment, when former female employees accused Sterling of sexual harassment and assault, Stern and the NBA owners looked the other way because Donald Sterling was their favorite patsy.
For years, NBA teams playing the Clippers could more or less pencil in a victory. Transplanted basketball fans who moved to Los Angeles could easily get tickets to see their original hometown team play and win against the Clippers, where they couldn’t count on doing either when their team played the Lakers. And while Donald Sterling’s bigotry was well documented, it was mostly a legal matter. But now that Sterling has been caught putting his bigotry into the kind of exact words that finally forced the league’s hand.
Adam Silver’s massive hammer-drop on Sterling today wouldn’t be happening if he didn’t have the support of the other NBA owners. It’s Silver’s bad luck that this controversy happened in the early days of his tenure. It’s David Stern’s decision to look the other way all those years that dropped this situation in Silver’s lap.