Donald Sterling skipped Game 4 of the Los Angeles Clippers playoff series after NBA commissioner Adam Silver asked him not to attend, but that was a road game hundreds of miles away from LA. Tonight in Game 5, the Clippers return home to the Staples Center, and Silver has to decide today whether to forbid Sterling from attending. The elderly Sterling could opt to stay home out of fear for his safety, as his recent racist comments have made him a lightning rod within the sports world, with almost no one coming to his support and numerous Clippers fans (including Magic Johnson) threatening to boycott the team until Sterling is forced out. But Sterling could still show up for the game, even if he’s told not to.
Tonight’s game highlights the difficulty of self governance in a sports league where the franchises compete on the court but collaborate on business deals, and the owners are more or less autonomous aside from a commissioner who answers to them collectively. Silver is limited in what he can do to Sterling without the explicit support of the majority of owners, so whatever decision he announces today will not only have to weigh the interests of the NBA but also be something that’s enforceable.
Sterling has attempted to vaguely claim through a spokesperson that the recording of his racial remarks may have been somehow altered, but that appears to be more of a legal maneuver than an excuse that anyone among the public would buy into. If he does show up tonight, he’ll be the main focus of attention in the arena and overshadow whatever takes place on the court between the Clippers and the Warriors.