2 May, 2014

I’ve followed the disgusting story of Donald Sterling’s racist comments.  And I applaud the decision by NBA Commissioner Alan Silver to both ban Sterling from the NBA for life and fine him $2.5 million…  the maximum fine he had the ability to impose. But one thing in all this leaves me feeling of two minds.

Actually two things leave me troubled.  One is that, while I applaud the universal (well, except for certain right-wing pundits) outrage, and Commissioner Silver’s quick and decisive response, I wonder where is the outrage at Doug DeVos, who with his family owns the Orlando Magic, for his ongoing homophobic and anti-gay activities?  (other than Craig Crawford’s terrific blog on the Huffington Post). But that’s a rant for another day.

The thing about the Sterling fallout that has me of two minds is Commissioner Silver’s push to get three-quarters of the owners of NBA teams to force Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that Sterling (and for that matter, DeVos) has no place in the NBA. But the fact of the matter is that the “punishment” Silver is suggesting, as good as it sounds in theory, in actuality will force Sterling  to sell the team he reportedly paid $12.7 million for  back in 1981 for what analysts guess will be roughly $1 billion dollars… essentially a $1 billion dollar profit. Some punishment!

Now, I understand that the real punishment part is the public humiliation at being forced to sell the team, but I’m guessing that the people closest to Sterling, his family, friends and business associates (the people he actually cares about) already knew all about Sterling’s racism, and either agree with him, or (as in the case of the NAACP) ignore it in return for financial benefits. So the only real humiliation Sterling will face is from the population at large; from people he doesn’t know and will probably never meet. And whatever the pain of that is, I’m guessing a billion dollar payoff will go a long way to assuaging it.

So, here’s a wild suggestion. Instead of forcing Sterling to sell the team, why not force him to remain the owner of record, but because of being banned for life from the NBA, not allow him to participate in any decisions regarding the team, not allow him to enter any NBA arena, and not not allow him to draw out profits (from NBA-related merchandise, media sales, etc.)? Force him to be the owner in name only. A, truly, silent, partner. One who will not profit in any way from his racism.

Okay, it’s probably not legal, but it seems like a better approach than rewarding him with a billion dollars for his racism. I mean, what kind of message does that actually send? That bad behavior will make you rich(er)? Tell that to the Kardashians or the Hiltons or the Real Housewives of wherever.

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