From Michael Jordan to LeBron James, from Magic Johnson to Kobe Bryant, from President Obama to prominent corporate partners of the NBA, the condemnation of racist comments purportedly made by Donald Sterling has come from all circles and has shown that the issue extends far beyond the Los Angeles Clippers.
They all will be watching on Tuesday, when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is scheduled to discuss the league’s investigation and possibly reveal disciplinary actions against the Clippers’ owner.
A suspension of indefinite length and a hefty fine — Silver can issue one of up to $1 million without approval from owners — are possible options. However, it remains unclear how far Silver’s powers extend at this point, even though the NBA constitution gives the commissioner’s office the clout to protect the game’s best interest.
Clippers players made their statement before playing the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, throwing their team-issued warm-up gear down on center court and conducting their pregame routines with shooting shirts inside-out to cover the team’s logo. The Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs wore black socks in their games as a show of support, while the Heat mimicked the Clippers warm-up statement in their playoff game against Charlotte on Monday night.
“Like I’ve said before, there’s no room in this game for an owner like that,” James said. “For us, as basketball players, we’re all brothers. We’re competing against each other and all of us want to win, but in the end, we all have to stick together. We supported our Clippers tonight and showed our respect to what they’re going through. For us, as a team, we can’t imagine what they’re going through at this point.”
Kobe Bryant and TNT analyst Kenny Smith are among the many to join James in calling for Sterling’s ouster and Jordan took a rare public stance on a high-profile issue when he said he was “disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views.”
So when Silver makes his announcement in New York on Tuesday afternoon, he will do so feeling considerable public pressure from some of the biggest names in the game, past and present, many of the league’s owners who pay
his salary and have spoken out against Sterling’s comments, and corporate sponsors like Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Virgin America that are backing away from advertising at Clippers games.
If Silver’s reaction is not perceived as strong enough, more demonstrations from players, protests from civil rights groups and pulled advertisements from businesses could follow.