The racially-charged conversation alleged to be between Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend have hurt the Los Angeles Clippers on the court. A silent protest by the players prior to their last playoff game against Golden State made their opinions obvious, if they weren’t already. And Doc Rivers has wondered aloud how he’ll get his team focused.
The argument about how fans or players or coaches should react is less important than wondering what can be done at the ownership level. The people who can do the most to address racism in the sport of basketball — this is the basic discussion wherever this specific and complicated Sterling case stands — must react.
Suns owner Robert Sarver has done that, joining Michael Jordan, among others, in condemning any NBA owner who might have a racist perspective. From The Arizona Republic’s Paola Boivin:
“I would rather not be partners with somebody who has the views that were expressed on those tapes,” Sarver said.
“This viewpoint should be one that is shared by both players and owners in our league,” he added. “At the end of the day, we’re in this business together.”
According to Boivin, Sarver spoke with Suns players about the issue in a teleconference since the audio recordings were posted by TMZ and later by DeadSpin.
Former Phoenix Suns guard Kevin Johnson is leading the players’ union through what he called a “defining moment for the NBA.” People are quick to say this will be a defining moment in the early days of commissioner Adam Silver’s career as well.
But what’s most true is that the owner’s have the most power. While this whole story is far from being completely understood, what is important is for the owners to decide what goes and what doesn’t.
Whether that audio recording is of Sterling or not isn’t clear yet. What is becoming more clear is that owners won’t stand aside and turn the other way if there is a racist among them.
A number of NBA owners have joined Sarver by publicly addressing the situation.
Paul Allen of the Portland Trail Blazers: “The kind of statements attributed to Clippers owner Donald Sterling, if true, are abhorrent, and not acceptable for the owner of an NBA franchise or anyone in professional sports. We at the Trail Blazers reject any and all such sentiments, and believe NBA leadership should take swift and impactful action in this case.”
Pacers owner Herb Simon: “I want our players, our coaches and everyone in our community to know that I believe statements attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling are appalling, offensive and totally contrary to my core beliefs and everyone in our entire organization. I am confident that Commissioner Adam Silver, who will speak tomorrow, and his staff will exercise due diligence on behalf of the National Basketball Association, its players and our fans and arrive at a solution that addresses the seriousness of this situation.”
Joshua Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers: “Without question, discrimination in any form is unacceptable and has no place in the National Basketball Association or anywhere else in society. The comments were hurtful and outrageous, and in no way reflect the values and beliefs of myself, our ownership group or the Philadelphia 76ers organization.”
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss: “The comments and sentiments expressed on the tape are reprehensible and disturbing, and certainly are the opposite of how the Lakers feel about the league’s players and fans. I have full confidence that Adam Silver and the NBA will handle this situation appropriately.”