With an overwhelming outcry coming from fans, a call for immediate action from the players that live and breathe the sport, and sponsors pulling their support left and right, first-year NBA Commissioner Adam Silver acted swiftly and decisively. “Effective immediately, I am banning (Donald) Sterling for life from any association with the (Los Angeles) Clippers organization or the NBA,” Commissioner Silver said to a room of reporters, and the millions watching on television, that historic late April afternoon. Commissioner Silver also announced Donald Sterling would receive a $2.5 million dollar fine, which he described as the maximum allowable. Commissioner Silver lastly announced he would work with the other 29 NBA owners to have Donald Sterling removed as owner of the Clippers.
For all that wanted the new commissioner to act swiftly, and with a heavy hand, they got their wish. The distasteful comments heard on the audio clips released by TMZ left little wiggle room, and elicited strong emotion from everyone who heard them. As far as many are concerned, Commissioner Silver was left with no choice but to levy the harshest possible punishment. Donald Sterling will never have a voice in, nor will he be allowed anywhere near, an NBA franchise again. Some question the how (the leaking of supposedly private conversations by a woman who may have her own motives behind doing so), but I believe Commissioner Silver was left with little choice once these comments surfaced. Some question why it took so long to discipline a man with a history of disparaging banter towards women on the record, and had been accused of discriminatory behavior by former employees (Elgin Baylor and Baron Davis to name two).
Sometimes it takes a situation like this for people to question the process. A process I think all major sports should seriously take a look at, and work urgently to rectify. Commissioner Silver, no matter how inflammatory Donald Sterling’s comments were, was caught in a very peculiar situation. He was in a particularly unique position, one only the commissioners of the sports leagues we enjoy watching find themselves in: He was forced to discipline one of his bosses. Even though Commissioner Silver knew he had the support of a majority of the remaining owners in the league, he was still making a decision that would negatively impact one of the men that appointed him Commissioner of the National Basketball Association. This needs to be looked at closely, and addressed by our major sporting entities.
Why not come up with a system where the Commissioner is appointed by the owners (as we have now), but upon appointment, is not subject to micromanagement by the collection of owners, but work alongside them. I’m talking about a system that closely resembles a form of checks and balances the judicial, legislative and executive branches of our government enjoy. You have the commissioner’s branch, the player’s branch and the owner’s branch… all working together to form a perfect league? In this scenario, the Commissioner’s office wouldn’t be a subordinate to the owners, but working side-by-side with the NBPA and the remaining owners in a situation such as the Donald Sterling fiasco.
The National Basketball Player’s Association, being temporarily lead by Sacramento Mayor (and former standout point guard) Kevin Johnson, sent Commissioner Silver a list of recommendations, but they held no real power in the process. In my scenario, the NBPA wouldn’t just make a statement of what they’d like to see from Commissioner Silver, but a list of recommended punishments/sanctions with some real weight behind it... a recommendation the Office of the Commissioner MUST take into consideration. I hope all the major sports leagues take this recommendation seriously.
-Joseph Haas, HaasStyleInterpretations.com
Join the conversation on Twitter @JerseyHaas or send me an e-mail JosephHaasNFL@Gmail.com. You can also find me covering the New York Jets at HCoftheNYJ.com and Saturdays on the Green & White Show.