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Why the NBA needs to come down hard on Donald Sterling

I’m not normally an NBA fan, but I did turn on the Clippers-Warriors playoff game in Oakland on Sunday. I must admit it was out of curiosity after reports said it was allegedly the voice of Clippers owner Donald Sterling on tapes that revealed him making racist comments while talking with his mistress.

I won’t get into the comments themselves, but you can read more about them here and here, as well as the outraged responses from various people in the NBA and even outside of it.

I also admit I felt a little guilty checking into the Clippers game like one would slow down to look at a car wreck, but my heart was definitely with the Clippers players. For head coach Doc Rivers and the team, I don’t know how you’d respond to a situation like this.

donald-sterlingThe team began its pre-game routine by dumping their warm-ups at half court and turning their T-shirts inside out as to not reveal the logo, and they also wore black armbands. As you might expect, the team didn’t have much energy for the game and lost pretty convincingly.

Tuesday night, the Clippers will be play on their home court in Game 5 of the series and I have no idea what the response will be like. I imagine fans will be in full support of the team and I do hope this is the case.

Because, you see, this is not a Marge Schott situation as some have compared it to. This is worse. The Cincinnati Reds owner was fined, suspended and ordered to take multicultural training programs after she used slurs against Jews in 1993. While that was also egregious, it wasn’t like her team was made up of men of Jewish descent.

Sterling’s comments directly affect most of the Clippers players, including its star guard and leader, Chris Paul. How can black players continue to play for an owner like that?

They can’t and that’s why I join the chorus calling for the NBA to penalize Sterling if it confirms that it’s Sterling on that tape.

The brand of the NBA is at stake here because the fair competition of the NBA is being affected. The Clippers had the look of an exhausted, unemotional team on Sunday, which is understandable. Think how deflated you would be if your boss made comments about your race or nationality, or any other permanent part of your person.

LeBron James said there is no place in the NBA for Donald Sterling, a longtime owner with a history of questionable behavior. He’s right. If the NBA has an owner that directly affects outcomes of games with that behavior, shifting the competitive balance, then he must be punished.

I know the NBA is also in a difficult spot, as it can’t force Sterling to sell the team – and I’m sure there’s a whole host of lawyers on both sides taking aim. But, in the long view, Donald Sterling needs to disappear from the NBA landscape.

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