The NBA hit a home run.
Commissioner Adam Silver knocked Donald Sterling out of the NBA with a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine on Tuesday. Furthermore, Silver, the new commish, also said he would seek ownership's approval to force Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers.
It was hardly what most expected, even though Sterling was caught on tape in a racist rant against black people and other minorities.
Even still, many thought Silver, just three months on the job, wouldn't be as forceful in issuing a punishment to the league's most-tenured owner. Sterling has owned the Clippers for more than 30 years.
Deep down, most believed the other owners - somehow, somewhere - would find a way to protect one of their own. The idea that Sterling would be forced to sell wasn't really on the table when people discussed how severe his punishment would be.
Many experts thought Silver would give Sterling an indefinite suspension and a $1 million fine.
And that's because the players made it clear they wouldn't accept a slap on the wrist. Not this time. Players were truly hurt when they heard Sterling on the audio recording calling black people "the enemy" and telling his girlfriend that he didn't want her to bring black people to his games.
You got the sense from some of the protests by players currently in the playoffs that they meant business when it came to harsh discipline for Sterling. And strong comments from some players that they wouldn't play for Sterling's team hit a nerve in NBA America as well.
Give the players and its union credit here. The NBA Player's Association has been soft for decades, but not in this case.
Hence, all eyes were on Silver. Was it going to be business as usual or was this going to be a judgment day we haven't seen in pro sports in this country?
It was decisively the latter.
Silver, showing courage and confidence, showed no mercy, and didn't spare the rod. Five days after the tape was released by website TMZ.com, Sterling was sacked forever.
"The central findings of the investigation are that the man whose voice is on the recordings. ... is Mr. Sterling and that the hateful feelings are those of Mr. Sterling," Silver said in a nationally-televised news conference. "The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply disturbing and alarming."
With that, Silver showed tremendous leadership and trying to cleanse his league that had been dragged through the mud for days now.
"We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling's views," Silver said. "They simply have no place in the NBA.
"Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multi-ethnic league."
Silver's decision has helped to unite this league. For years, it was clear former commissioner David Stern worked for the owners and not the players.
In this case, players honestly felt like they had a voice at the table and got what they were seeking.
And so far, at least from all comments coming from some current owners, it appears Silver has rock-solid support from ownership as well.
Still, Silver will need a three-quarters of the owners to back the forced sale of the team. Silver seemed pretty confident and didn't flinch when asked if he was sure he'd get the votes need to support his ground-breaking decision.
"I fully expect to get the support from other NBA owners to get him removed," he said.
This appears to be the first time an owner will be forced to in American teams sports history. Marge Schott, who also got caught up in racists comments, wound up selling her controlling interest in the Cincinnati Reds after pressure from MLB in 1999.
Leagues, with so much money at stake, simply can't afford to allow the brand to be damaged. And it was by Sterling, for sure.
"This league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach and any one player," Silver said. "This has been a painful moment for all in the NBA family."
In the end, Silver, with an assist from players, saved the family, corrected the wrong and fully attempted to heal the hurt. On second thought, it wasn't a home run. It was a grand slam.
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