Mandel’s Musings: The NBA “Family” Still Is a Contradiction In Terms

Published on: 29th April, 2014

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Adam Silver
Silver used the hammer on Donald Sterling  | read this item

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Donald Sterling's "girlfriend" who recorded their phone chat, V.Stiviano

Donald Sterling’s “girlfriend” who recorded their phone chat, V.Stiviano

New York — I must say, it is fascinating to see the NBA and its fraternity of owners (fraternity, as in all male owners) refer to themselves several times over the past few days as a “family.” When exactly did this evolution occur, from a league of cutthroat competitors, whispers of negative racial undertones among the athletes since the 1960s, and the economic malaise of the sport in the late 1970s BBM (before Bird and Magic) to this suddenly warm, family-valued organization cited by the NBA commissioner at his press conference today?

The NBA and it’s new czar, Adam Silver, did what it had to do to prevent player mutiny (literally) and, of course, to protect its revenue base in the land of sponsorships and advertisers. And that was to come down with the heaviest of hammers on the head of one Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Silver, who just took on the job 12 weeks ago, needed to demonstrate in this, the first litmus test of his regime, that he would not be a pushover and could be counted on to protect all the family’s interests. And, you know what? The man certainly demonstrated, in the diverse world of the NBA, how the leader of a family with huge business interests is supposed to act.

Silver said he will try to force Sterling, owner of the Clippers for over 30 years, to divest himself of the franchise. The NBA is accusing Sterling of making incendiary and racially-inflammatory comments during a private phone conversation with his girlfriend that was recorded by the little darling and presented to those sweethearts at TMZ for broadcast. Silver also fined Sterling the maximum amount allowed by NBA by-laws, $2.5 million, and banned Sterling for life from ANY NBA activities. The owner of the Clippers cannot even attend his own team’s games or practices or have any further contact with anyone associated with the team he owns and pays for.

Sterling may or may not be a despicable character but I’m guessing, as a multiple honoree by the NAACP (he was given a Humanitarian Award in 2008 and a President’s Award in 2009 as well as the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Los Angeles chapter), he probably has some very redeeming qualities appreciated by all colors of our societal rainbow. I doubt the NAACP’s trophies had an inscription that included the phrase, converted racist. The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP says he was honored because of his efforts to bring inner-city kids to Clippers games and to promote education efforts among minority groups.

Sterling, who also employed Elgin Bayler as the Clippers general manager for many years and hired Doc Rivers as his current head coach sounds like the worst kind of racist, doesn’t he?

The reality is, Sterling has been a hated member for many years within the “NBA family” for the way he’s treated his employees and for how he never learned to get along with his fellow owners. He has been a bad landlord and a bad boss. He’s also been sued several times by tenants for discriminatory tactics and he’s been sued for poor business practices by the great Baylor, his g.m. who somehow “stuck it out” under Sterling for 22 years. The Justice Department also came after him in a class action by his minority tenants on charges of discrimination. Sterling has not lost in court, settling out of court on the Justice Dep’t. charge without admitting guilt and defeating Baylor, outright.

The last business organization I recall that called themselves a family was run by guys with names like Joe Bonanno and the Dapper Don, John Gotti. This NBA-family concept is beginning to feel a little like another “family” that did business in unique ways. I can see Al Pacino, as Michael Corleone, telling his brother in the great film, The Godfather, “Fredo, I know you did it.” Then, Michael, of course, gave his brother the famous kiss of death.

Silver used the hammer on Donald Sterling

Silver used the hammer on Donald Sterling

Fast-forward to Adam Silver’s NBA, heretofore known as the “family.” Today’s NBA consists of 30 franchises in which 77% of its players are African-American. In this rainbow, racially-conscious world of the NBA, there is exactly one owner of color, Michael Jordan. The NBA of 2014 is comprised of mostly young, rich black athletes. But, it appears to be run by mostly old, rich, white guys.

I can’t help but picture Adam Silver, who. like Michael Corleone took over the family business upon the retirement (and subsequent passing) of his mentor, Vito Corleone. the Godfather. With “Dapper” David Stern, Silver’s mentor for 22 years now comfortably in retirement, the family business has been passed to Silver. His first order of business? Silver gave Sterling the kiss of death. Now, that is a family tradition.

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