Donald Sterling has the Right to free speech, just as anybody else does. Is Donald Sterling losing his team for exercising Freedom of Speech and/or for being racist? That’s irrelevant. The Federal Government, the State of California, nor the City of Los Angelos can do anything to Donald Sterling for his comments. That would be infringing on his freedom of speech.
Whether or not you’re a racist is none of the NBA’s business. If you think white people grow tails, or Mexicans can’t jump, or that black people are all from Mexico does not matter to the NBA because you do not, in any way, shape or form, represent the NBA. On the other hand, Donald Sterling is a major part of the NBA and as such, has a duty and an obligation to represent the NBA “brand name”.
While the Clippers organization is his private property, the Clippers organization still must operate under the rules and regulations of the NBA. Just as a franchisee must abide by the rules and regulations of the franchiser. Under NBA guidelines, 75% of the owners must vote to remove an owner from his team. As Donald Sterling is not just the owner of the Clippers, but also a Representative of the entire league, how he conducts himself in public matters.
Being that this was a private conversation, it is a bit unfair that these comments were made public. Regardless, Sterling, as a representative of an Association has to own up to his private comments. He should never have made those comments in private, but he did. Those comments should never have been made public, but they were.
Franchisees lose their franchises all the time in business. Franchise owners fail to meet certain criteria and the Franchiser moves in and forces the Franchisee to sell to an approved buyer. It’s a common practice in the business world. Those Franchisees more often than not, have far less money than Donald Sterling. Welcome to the business world. Just because TNT airs NBA games doesn’t mean the NBA has to broadcast drama.
While I agree that Donald Sterling has the freedom of speech and he doesn’t have to like anybody he doesn’t want to, he is not the owner of the NBA.
It does, however, seem a bit sleazy that a person who has been reportedly interested in buying the Clippers is at the center of this. That the person who these comments were made to and who recorded these comments had just made a picture public with the person who is trying to buy the Clippers. I’m talking about Magic Johnson.
While the NBA can and should force Sterling to sell the Clippers, the new owners must be approved. Since Magic Johnson was reportedly been interested in buying the Clippers, the picture is Sterling’s girlfriend with Magic Johnson, and she records this conversation to release to the public should not go unnoticed. Whether Magic Johnson had anything more to do with this scandal is now a mute point. This can be a lesson in how to acquire an NBA team 101 if the owners allow Magic Johnson to purchase the team.
The way I see it, even if Magic Johnson wasn’t in on setting up Donald Sterling, other ambitious people might just work to embarrass other NBA owners, working behind the scenes to undermine an NBA owners while positioning their self to be the first in line to acquire that team.
So what should the NBA do with the Clippers if not sell it to Magic Johnson? Disband the club after the season? This is a viable option considering that a large percentage of the players are black. It would send a very strong message to all owners, future and present that the owners need to be mindful of how they conduct their self publicly or privately.
But I have a different alternative. What the NBA needs to do is take control of the team. To purchase the team from Donald Sterling and take control of it. The NBA should leave the front office in tact, guaranteeing the ongoing management of the team for two years. During this two year period, the NBA should be looking for a new home and a new owner outside of California, and owner who lives in that city for more than 5 years. It seems there are a lot of places that can support an NBA team. St. Louis or Kansas City comes to mind. They can still be a part of the Western Conference and give Kansas-Missouri fans something to cheer for. Oklahoma can support the Thunder, St. Louis certainly can as well.
by Jeff Blanco