Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers who was caught making overtly racist remarks directed toward Magic Johnson and black men in general, has backed himself into a corner from which he cannot emerge. The NBA’s most prominent players have publicly stated they want him gone as owner, not a single of his fellow team owners has shown even a shred of support for him, his own coach Doc Rivers has suggested he might not return next year, and even Michael Jordan – who has carefully never publicly taken a political or controversial stance in his professional life – says he wants Sterling gone. Sterling and his estranged wife have one solution, then: sell the team. And sell it to Magic Johnson.
The idea goes beyond the mere suggestion of a solution suited to fit the crime. Magic Johnson, far from being a random bystander, happens to be part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He and the financial group that backed him on that acquisition could easily take over the LA Clippers and immediately restore the team’s reputation. Suddenly the team goes from being owned by a despised racist, to being owned by one of the most beloved figures in the history of the NBA. The sale would also be an opportunity for Donald Sterling to make his exit in a manner which might repair some of the damage he’s done to his legacy. If he hands the team over to Magic, he can claim that the comments derogatory comments he made must have somehow been out of context; after all, if he’s selling the team to Magic, he can’t really have meant that he didn’t want Magic at his games, right?
Such logic might not get Sterling very far. But it’s enough to save him from the ignominy of being forced out of the NBA by his fellow owners in an ugly court battle which could still be going on by the time the eighty year old Sterling passes away. In the mean time, it’s not enough for Sterling to step away from the team and allow his wife to run it; he’s done too much damage for anyone in his family to remain owner, and his wife is too deeply rooted in the discriminatory slumlord practices which got Sterling tagged as a racist to begin with. But if they sell the team to Magic Johnson and his investors, they can simply disappear and leave the mess they’ve made behind for Magic to clean up.