On Monday, I wrote about what I thought the NBA should do about the Donald Sterling mess. Yesterday, Adam Silver and the NBA did the unprecedented right thing: they banned him for life and encouraged the owners to force him to sell the team.
This was the right thing to do for the league, the players, the fans and the world. If the NBA took this approach with everything that involves its brand, then the NBA would truly be a brand to admire.
The talking heads talked about how gambling, performance enhancing drugs and now racism must be dealt with because they affect the “integrity of the game.” This is absolutely true, but the elephant in the room remains – the NBA still has an image problem.
Back in 2005, the Washington Post published an article about that image problem, a year after the Ron Artest brawl with Detroit Pistons fans.
From my perspective, little has changed. Games are still marred by bench clearing brawls, players are getting pulled over for DUI and arrested for failure to appear in court for domestic violence, drugs, and guns. Granted, the arrest rate for NBA players is less than the public, but it should be. They are paid more and have a duty – yes, a duty – to live up to the brand of the NBA.
I am not going to comment on the fact that they should know better or that, if they have had a few drinks, they should just call a cab. They can afford it, after all. But what I will comment on is the dangers of placing a brand into the hands of those who truly do not embrace it or respect it.
Sure, people will say that NBA players are just people or they play with very high levels of emotion. This is true but if they are also good enough and disciplined enough to hone their craft, they should be able to control their behavior. By the way, this kind of problem is not just in the NBA. It is present in every professional sport to some degree as well at the college level.
I said that the arrest rate was lower for the NBA than the population as a whole but it should be 0. The NBA must also understand and recognize that negative player behavior on and off the court also affect the “integrity of the game.” Should a player pulled over for marijuana and possession of an illegal gun be suspended? Or, because their image should be a reflection of the NBA, perhaps they too should be banned for life?
Does every player get arrested? No. Does every game have a bench-clearing brawl? No. But these events are never in a vacuum. They are cumulative, one builds on the one previous. Back in 2005, the term National Brawlers League was used to describe the NBA. Was that simply because of a single incident?
If the NBA really does care about doing the right thing and protecting the “integrity of the game,” then it should take bold, aggressive and immediate action in ALL cases that involve its image and brand. Not just the hot button ones. Adam Silver did the right thing. Let’s see if he can use it to build momentum to continue to do so.