Donald Sterling has [apparently] spoken. The Los Angeles Clippers players have spoken. Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley have spoken. Snoop Dog, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have spoken. NBA sponsors are lining up to speak.
Now the National Basketball Association, in the form of the other owners and new commissioner Adam Silver, left, must speak.
This is surely a Sterling-Silver issue.
As Howard Beck writes on bleacherreport.com:
Sterling has been sued by countless ex-employees, including former general manager Elgin Baylor, who also alleged racial discrimination.
Court records are littered with stories of Sterling’s vile remarks on race.
Anyone who has ever worked or played for the Clippers could fill a coffee table book with such tales.
Donald Sterling is an abominable owner and, apparently, an even more abominable person.
Donald Sterling has owned the Clippers since 1981.
So far, perhaps hiding behind the gauzy curtain of “due process,” Silver is playing it cautious.
“The audio recording posted by TMZ is truly offensive and disturbing,” Silver said at a press conference in Memphis, “and we intend to get to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.”
OK, so what will the NBA owners and commissioner do?
The remedies range from censure and a massive fine — how high can it go to really hurt a man reportedly worth $1.9 billion — to forcing him to sell the team, or fire him as an owner.
But whatever Silver does, he needs to gather the facts fast, make a decision, win the consensus of the other owners — who, let’s face it, are tainted by a member of their exclusive club peeing in the punch bowl — and act decisively.
As media and societal spotlights shift from “what he said” to “what you’re going to do about it,” the pressure will intensify. As a decision that will put Silver on the map among American leaders, he needs to handle this swiftly, decisively and with a clear prophylactic mandate for the future.
Sterling’s remarks are not his first expressions of racial stupidity. Surely the prominent players who have commented are not surprised by views like these. Nor would the average black person in America today describe them as unusual or outlandish.
The issue is no longer TMZ’s recordings. It’s what the NBA owners and Silver, as extensions of American power and society, will do to censure and correct this “owner’s” stupidity. There are too many precedents going back to CBS and oddsmaker Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder in 1988 to think that Sterling’s comments will lead to some transformative change in American society, or even sports.
But Silver and the NBA owners — Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson in some ownership positions among them — need to step up and demonstrate clearly and decisively that there’s no place for an attitude like Sterling’s.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.