The courtside seats normally occupied by Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his wife were empty Tuesday night inside Staples Center, presumably never to be filled again by a man whose presence sullied his franchise for too long.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver needed only 88 days on the job to do what his predecessor had not done over decades, forcing a contemptible owner out of professional sports.
FOR THE RECORD:
Donald Sterling: In the April 30 Sports section, the On the NBA column about Commissioner Adam Silver's decision to sanction Clippers owner Donald Sterling said that the courtside seats normally occupied by Sterling and his wife were vacant during the team's game Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors. A second column in the same section said that Sterling's wife, Shelly, had gone to the game accompanied by bodyguards. To clarify in both cases, she was in the arena but not sitting courtside. —
Silver's lifetime ban of Sterling over remarks the owner admitted to making about blacks ensured none of Sterling's players or team employees would be subjected to further embarrassment.
Sterling had been the first owner in league history to lose a playoff game for his team by having his distracting remarks revealed on the eve of Game 4 of the Clippers' first-round playoff series Sunday against the Golden State Warriors.
Sterling's unprecedented punishment, which also included a $2.5-million fine and probable forced sale of the Clippers pending a vote by team owners, provided an encouraging glimpse into the mind-set of a commissioner whose first major power play cannot be topped by any rim-rattling dunk in these playoffs.
Silver did exactly what the outraged players demanded: He acted swiftly and decisively, allowing the Clippers to resume their pursuit of a championship no longer troubled by the specter of an owner who apparently wouldn't want 11 of them posing with a female friend on Instagram because they are black.
As he stood before a throng of media in New York to announce the sweeping sanctions against Sterling, hours before the Clippers polished off the Warriors, 113-103, in Game 5, Silver appeared genuinely agitated by the ordeal yet maintained a commanding presence.
“I think at the end of the day the commissioner did an incredible job of making us all feel like the situation is under control and the situation is and will be handled,” Golden State Coach Mark Jackson said before the game.
Silver smartly levied the maximum penalties allowed under the NBA bylaws and constitution while giving the owners final say in whether Sterling stays or goes. Based on the universal sentiment expressed by owners who publicly condemned Sterling, it could be a unanimous vote. Even the Clippers, believed to be now run by President Andy Roeser, quickly released a statement backing the commissioner's actions.
Silver scored another important victory by making the league's constitution and bylaws public Tuesday in a nod to the transparency he has vowed to create.
The commissioner said he had “no idea” whether Sterling would fight his punishment, but you can bet your last piece of Sterling silver the litigious-minded billionaire will if forced to sell the team for what he believes is less than fair market value.
Sterling's recourse in this matter would be an antitrust lawsuit that could last years and cost the NBA millions in legal fees.
To his credit, Silver was willing to take that risk.
The only thing that could have elevated Silver's performance from an A to an A-plus would have been to issue a mea culpa for the years of inactivity regarding Sterling, even though that blame rests squarely with former commissioner David Stern.
Silver said Sterling had never been previously suspended or fined by the NBA despite multiple accounts of racial indiscretions because there had never been any findings of guilt in lawsuits brought against him.
“I can't speak to past actions,” Silver said, “other than to say when specific evidence was brought to the NBA, we acted.”
Not really. The NBA did nothing despite reams of evidence against Sterling, including salacious statements made in sworn testimony and a $2.73-million judgment in a housing discrimination case.
But let's not nitpick on a day Silver did the league proud by showing who's in charge around here … and who isn't.
Twitter: @latbbolchCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times