In his first news conference since announcing that Clippers owner Donald Sterling had received a lifetime ban from the National Basketball Association, Commissioner Adam Silver took to the podium to discuss the issue, which has looked more and more like it will devolve into an ugly, protracted battle. His statements came after the NBA officially charged Sterling with damaging the league with his racist comments — which were captured on tape and released to gossip crew TMZ by a female acquaintance of the octogenarian — and asserted that he “has engaged in other conduct that has impaired its relationship with fans and merchandising partners,” per ESPN. Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glenn Taylor, the president of the NBA’s Board of Governors, will reside over the league hearing.
While Sterling had asked for more time before the hearing, scheduled for June 6, Silver was quick to say that his request had been denied. He also added that the timing was consistent with what was provided in the NBA constitution, and that “frankly, Mr. Sterling doesn’t [represent what the NBA is all about].”
Silver added, “I think for those who say it’s a slippery slope, and, my God, what happens to the next player or the next owner who does something wrong, I’d only say there’s something particular about race issues when it comes to sports, and maybe the NBA in particular,” addressing comments made by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. “I mean, it’s no secret we have a league that the majority of the players are African American; the vast majority of the owners are not. But it’s as egalitarian an institution as there is anywhere, at least that I know of. And I look at the track record in terms of hiring of coaches, general managers, front-office personnel, even increasingly in the ownership ranks — I think it’s, you know, it’s beyond anger.”
Silver also suggested that the claims put forth by Shelly Sterling, who seeks to maintain ownership of the Los Angeles franchise even if her husband is dismissed from the league, were largely baseless. The league would suggest that Donald Sterling set up a sale on his own but would have no qualms about terminating his franchise, then selling the rights to someone else on their own discretion.
“We’re not a post-racial society,” Silver said moments after citing Kevin Durant’s moving speech at the MVP ceremony, “but at least within the boundaries of my authority, I feel an obligation to protect the people who are within this league, and so that’s my reaction.” The Clippers were eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals this postseason.