Adam Silver Should be Willing to Overturn Clippers’ Owner Donald Sterling’s Lifetime Ban on 2 Conditions
But 24 hours later, I've been re-thinking whether or not the punishment was the best way to generate progress in the NBA. Does an exclusively punitive remedy move the league forward as much as another option might? Should the league and its commissioner be willing to give Donald Sterling a second chance in exchange for some concrete, measurable, and real progress?
How could the NBA do it? It could be done simply by Commissioner Adam Silver using his leverage to ensure that the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers is either an African American investor or an African American led group.
Think about it. Only one NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats, in a league 80% African American, is owned by an African American. That's a situation that almost everyone agrees needs to be corrected.
The question becomes how can the NBA use the Donald Sterling situation to fix this.
Well, first they can maintain their current punishment and hope that Sterling sells the team to an investment group led by an African American. Already the names of possible suitors such as Oprah Winfrey, Floyd Mayweather, and Magic Johnson have surfaced. The problem is, what if Sterling refuses to sell to a minority group out of spite? He’s got nothing to lose (and for that matter nothing to gain) at this point so why should he cooperate? He obviously doesn’t need the money. But Sterling does, presumably, need to find a way to redeem his reputation unless he wants to spend his final days as one of the most despised men in America.
And that—potential redemption—is what Adam Silver and the NBA could offer Sterling in exchange for true progress.
That outcome, increasing the greater good, could be achieved if Adam Silver and the League decided that racial advancement and increased minority ownership in the League were more important than merely banning an 80 year-old mean spirited guy in the twilight of his life.
That kind of progress could happen if Silver and the League took a step back and decided to play long-ball. If Sterling agreed to overturn Donald Sterling's lifetime based upon the following two conditions:
1. Sterling enters into an agreement to sell at least 10% of his team to a group led by African Americans.
2. Sterling provides the African American group a contractual Right of First Refusal to purchase the team either upon Sterling's death or within a ten year period.
This would, in effect, virtually guarantee that the Los Angeles Clippers next owner would be an African American. Sterling would get something he would likely want—his ban overturned and a chance at some redemption--and the NBA would get something even more important.
Sure it feels good that Sterling is banned and he will be forced to sell the team, but wouldn't the overall purpose better be served by ensuring the next owner of the Clippers is by a minority owner? Wouldn't this also be a case of poetic justice as well? That Sterling’s racist remarks were turned around and used in a way that led to more diverse ownership?
And what’s the real downside? Sterling's lifetime ban is overturned and he gets a chance to somewhat try and repair his reputation. That downside would be worth it, in my opinion.
And remember, it only happens in exchange for the Right of First Refusal that meets a goal that the NBA Players’ Association want to happen—more owners of color in the NBA.
At the end of the day, Donald Sterling didn't kill anyone. He's just a racist who has a history of discrimination. He should be severely punished, but by thinking outside of the box the NBA can end up with a result that will have a positive impact long after the final buzzer sounds on Mr. Sterling’s life.
What do you think? Should Adam Silver and the NBA owners offer Donald Sterling a shot at redemption in exchange for guaranteeing the next owner of the Clippers is African American?
Ask yourself, what would be better outcome in five years time? Knowing that Donald Sterling is banned and that he was forced to sell the team or knowing that the NBA found a way to use Donald Sterling’s hurtful words to achieve something that everyone can agree is a positive outcome?
I think that if Adam Silver wants to truly achieve something for greater good of the NBA and its players, he should be willing to overturn Donald Sterling’s lifetime ban in exchange for the Right of First Refusal.
Such a scenario, if adopted by the League, would thus guarantee that this negative chapter in NBA history resulted in real progress and racial advancement.