April 29th, 2014

Spencer Platt

I am not sure anyone expected that April 29th, 2014 would end up being one of the most historic days in the history of American professional sports, but that is exactly what happened when Adam Silver handed down his unprecedented punishment to Donald T Sterling this afternoon.

Sterling has long been an unsightly smudge in the NBA's history books, and it was long assumed that the NBA under commissioner David Stern was hopeful that Father Time would do the job in removing Stern, as his abhorrent behavior and business practices were generally cloaked in obscurity as OUR Los Angeles Clippers were mired in a 30 year long drought. That's a nice way of putting it. The Clippers were a joke, and Donald Sterling was paid no mind by the media or the NBA Front Office.  Mr. Sterling's latest disaster however finds the Clippers among the NBA Elite for the first time in history. Here in the spotlight, and with Father Time showing no signs of rearing his head, Adam Silver took action above and beyond what anyone might have expected, issuing a lifetime ban of Donald Sterling, imposing the maximum fine allowed under the league by-laws, and making it clear that he would move swiftly to begin a forced sale of the team. It is truly unprecedented.

So how do you feel Clipsnation? For me it is a mixed state of emotion. People who for days have been urging Clipper fans that they "can no longer support this team" seem to not realize that it is Clipper fans who were among the only people calling for Sterling's head for years to no avail. The day has finally come when it appears the worst owner in the history of team sports is headed out the door. As a fan, I am thrilled. In the short term, I think the players can take a deep breath and get back to competing in this playoff series. I think Staples Center will be raucous tonight, and I hope the "Blackout" that has been called for is the great bold statement the players deserve. I hope an ownership group with deep pockets and the determination to build a winner buys the Clippers and their fortunes are forever changed. I hope for all of this, and damnit if I don't feel like we deserve it.

Still, I can't help but feel like the NBA has stepped out onto a bit of a slippery slope here. Donald Sterling is without any question a racist, and not fit to be a representative of the NBA (or the human race for that matter). That said, the manner in which the comments he admittedly made came to light is disconcerting to me, and to use those comments to remove him from the NBA seems less than ideal. It's the rare situation where a just outcome may be happening by unjust means, and that should make us all somewhat uneasy. Sterling is a racist and an equal opportunity asshole, but neither of those things are illegal. Still, perhaps the greater good is being served.  Perhaps Donald Sterling is a public figure representing a private league and they have the right to decide if he is not representing them in a manner they see fit, and are entirely within their rights. After all they will sell the team for what will undoubtedly be a record shattering price (north of a billion dollars by early accounts) and Sterling will be well compensated.  In all likelihood, the notoriously litigious Sterling will have a lawsuit filed by tomorrow morning, and a judge will decide whether the NBA has acted appropriately and/or within it's rights.

For now, Clipper fans, lets agree that we can be happy that the focus will shift back to the thus-far fantastic NBA playoffs. The end is probably not in sight, but with any luck we can begin to put Donald Tokowitz in his rightful place: The rearview mirror.

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