The NBA’s new commissioner, Adam Silver has put his league on notice that there will be no room for racism in professional basketball. He has set the bar very high indeed, by issuing a life time ban for Donald Sterling’s words uttered in a private conversation serendipitously recorded by his girlfriend and then leaked to TMZ. No matter the source, Sterling’s racist words earned him a record 2.5 million dollar fine, a life time ban and a forced sale of his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers. I shed no tears for Sterling, a world class creep who deserves everything he gets. But if I were a player in this league, I would be very, very nervous right about now.
Professional basketball players, like most world class athletes, aren’t exactly known for their Mensa memberships, neither are they known for their choirboy lifestyles, or open-minded acceptance of the “other.” A quick examination of the arrest records of the major stars of most American professional sports leagues will reveal an appalling number of aggravated assaults, domestic violence, drug use and possession, as well as your basic garden variety public intoxication charges. Now that the social media crowd has discovered the power that an illegally taped conversation has to catapult one to fame and potential fortune, we can expect more of it…a LOT more. So the next time Lebron and his entourage are out having a few drinks after a game and somebody starts telling jokes about that gay couple sitting in the third row, they better keep a sharp eye out for anyone holding their smart phone at an odd angle. If Carmelo Anthony casually makes disparaging remarks about a white opponent’s inability to jump, he better hope nobody gets it on tape.
There’s a new sheriff in town and he has made it clear that the NBA will not tolerate impure, insensitive or racist thoughts, even if they are expressed only in private conversations.
One wonders if any person associated with the NBA has ever done anything worthy of a life time ban before Mr. Sterling. Actually there have been a few, mostly no-name players like Roy Tarpley and Chris Washburn, banned for substance abuse. But when it comes to big name players, it’s practically impossible to be banned for life. Although Allen Iverson’s arrest record included physical violence against his wife, including throwing her out of his house naked into the street, no life time ban was issued. During a nine year NBA career Isaiah Rider was arrested an astonishing 832 times, a record that still stands, for everything from assault to weed possession. None of these 832 arrest or even the record setting accumulation of arrests were enough to illicit a life time ban from the Commissioner’s office. But that was then, and this is now. Adam Silver is no Donald Stern, and apparently Isaiah Rider is no Donald Sterling.
So here’s a head’s up to everyone associated with the League, watch your mouth. You never know who is listening.