Tuesday, July 22, 2014

If Donald Sterling Stays, Does Anyone Else?

Hopefully, Not For Long
Lead story today: the No, Really? revelation that if Donald Sterling remains the owner of the Clippers, head coach and easily hired professional Doc Rivers would likely step down.

At which point you really should ask: why just Rivers?

Start with the sponsors, who would have to be spectacularly tone deaf to sign on to this train wreck if the pariah of America is involved. Chris Paul is active in the NBA players' union, makes real bank from endorsements, and would be welcomed with open arms by every team in the NBA. If he decides that this is an inhospitable working environment, and that his contract is null and void, the NBA isn't going to rule against him. The same exact thing goes for Blake Griffin. DeAndre Jordan blossomed under Rivers, and has his whole career ahead of him; he's also going to stop being very notable once Paul stops feeding him all of those sweet lobs. And so on, and so on.

The simple fact of the matter is that the act of raising this lawsuit is all of the evidence that anyone should need that Sterling is no longer mentally competent enough to be trusted with anything greater than ordering lunch, and maybe not even that. We're talking about a man whose team sold for an utterly absurd amount of money after the biggest PR disaster in the history of sports, who is alleging that the amount wasn't enough, and that the person who arranged this can't do anything. After, well, falling for the oldest and saddest trick in the book, which is when rich old men think young women want to be there for anything except the payoff.

So, once more with feeling...

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver really can't wait on justice, no matter how quickly it seems to be moving.

If Sterling is someone involved in the NBA, even in preseason games, the NBA can't be involved with him, or whoever takes the paycheck and puts on his jersey.

Because no matter what's handed down from the league offices, it's going to look like the league has tacitly endorsed Sterling, and not done enough to be rid of him. That the pariah has won, and that all of these proud African-American multi-millionaires have to work for a man that might be the most notorious racist in the country, if not the world. And that every NBA team is also complicit, since they share revenue with Sterling, and more or less pay him to be in the league with them.

So, not to put too fine a point on this, or go too far into what appears to be hyperbole...

But honestly, has there ever been a bigger threat to the league?

Tim Donaghy made the world doubt the veracity of officiating. Kermit Washington, a huge and powerful black man, nearly killed a beloved white player on the court in the 1970s. Michael Ray Richardson and Roy Tarpley made PR nightmares with rampant and recidivist drug abuse. Ted Stepien destroyed the Cavs and ruined competitive balance in ways you wouldn't tolerate in a fantasy league. Charles Oakley was borderline terrifying on the court, and extended it outwards with the collection of gambling debts. Michael Jordan was the subject of relentless rumors in the wake of his mid-career baseball sojourn, has been a historically bad GM, and ran a hard-line stance that helped caused a ridiculous lockout year. David Stern helped grease the skids and salt the earth in Seattle and Vancouver.

But all of these men were minor rogues compared to Sterling. All of these men could have been, and in the case of Donaghy and Stepien, removed. All of these men, with the exception of Donaghy and Stepien, contributed something positive to the Association in the mix of their misdeeds, and had fans of their own, especially when they were performing for their laundry.

No one has ever, unless they were receiving a direct and immediate cash payment, felt kindly towards Donald Sterling. And no one ever will.

So it's not a case of Sterling or Rivers.

It's Sterling or the NBA.

Or, at least, the NBA as we know it.

Anyone else feel like rooting for Sterling's prostrate cancer about now?

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