NAACP: Sterling sanctions don't go far enough

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver won near-universal plaudits for delivering “death penalty” sanctions on LA Clippers owner (for now) Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban and a recommendation to the owners that they force a franchise sale. The NAACP, however, isn’t satisfied. They want Silver and the owners to guarantee that this won’t happen in the future, too:

The National Urban League, the National Action Network, the NAACP and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation issued a joint statement cheering Silver’s announcement that he banned Sterling for life and that the league would attempt to force him to sell the Clippers.

That decision, the statement said, was “a bold, courageous and resolute message that the views expressed by Sterling do not represent the National Basketball Association as an organization today or the kind of organization that it seeks to be in the future.”

But Sterling’s suspension isn’t enough, the groups said, calling for Silver to meet with them to ensure Sterling “remains an anomaly among the owners and executives in the league.”

“Sterling’s long-established pattern of bigotry and racist comments have not been a secret in the NBA,” the statement said. “Yet until now, they have been tolerated and met with a gentle hand and a blind eye.”

That’s true. Sterling’s biases have been pretty well known, if not widely discussed, and his discriminatory practices in real estate have brought legal sanctions. The NAACP in particular has long fought Sterling over his control of the Clippers, and … er, what? They gave him a lifetime achievement award despite their knowledge of his biases and practices?

Maybe these groups should look to clean their own house first, as CBS News explains:

Talk about chutzpah, at least with the NAACP. In this case, all sides acted shamelessly. Sterling bought their approval, and they willingly sold it. The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP was about to bestow another lifetime achievement award on Sterling in a couple of weeks, which they hastily canceled when this tape went public and viral. They have little standing in this case to demand that the NBA offer them guarantees after years of willingly cleansing Sterling of his sins through his cash infusions.

Life doesn’t provide guarantees — only the need for vigilance. If they want integrity moving forward, though, these groups should start by implementing it in their own organizations first.

The NBA may have better news coming. Entertainment mogul David Geffen wants to bid for ownership of the Clippers, according to Reuters:

Billionaire media executive David Geffen is interested in buying the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, according to a person with knowledge of Geffen’s thinking, following a decision by National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver to ban Clipper owner Donald Sterling for life. …

Geffen, who started two record labels and the Dreamworks film studio with Jeffrey Katzenberg and director Steven Spielberg, had expressed interest in the past in buying the Clippers but never made an offer.

He has a net worth of an estimated $6.2 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Geffen could probably act quickly if the NBA can force Sterling to sell, but that may end up taking years if Sterling fights them in court. If the league constitution allows owners to determine eligibility for a franchise ownership, though, Sterling may not have much of a case, and may decide to save his money and make a fortune on the sale instead. Magic Johnson and his Guggenheim Partners would probably be interested in buying the franchise and it would be better public relations to have Johnson end up as managing partner for the club, but Geffen’s wealth gives him a big edge, especially if the league acts quickly. Geffen could always combine forces with Johnson and his partners, too.

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Duane Patterson 10:01 AM on November 28, 2022