Commentary: Sterling Is Worst Dark Cloud on David Stern’s Legacy
by Aaron Levine
We start by putting our spotlight on a number of articles that go a step further than admonishing Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his alleged racist remarks.
They place blame on former NBA Commissioner David Stern for years of silence and inaction toward Sterling.
Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver should be praised for taking swift and decisive action against Sterling, banning him for life and fining him 2.5 million dollars. But we also question why the previous commissioner turned a blind eye toward Sterling’s alleged reprehensible actions for more than 20 years?
As Ian O’Connor of ESPN writes, “David Stern never had a problem punishing his players for saying or tweeting remarks deemed offensive….But Stern didn’t bother to hit (Sterling) when he gleefully admitted to trading money for sex. Or when he paid a $2.7 million settlement to the U.S. Justice Department after he was accused in a federal discrimination suit of saying ‘black tenants smell and attract vermin.’
There was also the housing discrimination suit from the Department of Justice in 2006, accusing Sterling of refusing to rent to African Americans in Beverly Hills and non-Koreans in Koreatown.
And most notably – since it involved the Clippers organization – there was the wrongful termination suit filed by Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, accusing Sterling of using racist terms and having a Southern plantation mentality in running his franchise.
And still, Stern did nothing.
Actually he did: in 2011, Stern vetoed a potential Chris Paul trade to the Lakers, sending Paul to the Clippers instead. As Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated writes, Stern threw “a lifeboat to the bigot, the cheapskate, the miscreant who owned the Clippers. It was like handing a Ferrari to a juvenile delinquent and expecting his behavior to improve.”
For a commissioner who took such a hard-line with everyone else, how could Stern have been so indifferent toward Donald Sterling?
Regardless of his retirement, how does Stern continue to sit in silence, refusing interview requests, without a simple statement, acknowledging the horrific words Sterling has allegedly admitted to saying?
As Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel writes “If the former commissioner had taken a stand back then, the current commissioner might not have to deal with a racist owner hijacking the 20-14 NBA Playoffs.”
On August 8th, Stern will be inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. Before then, more needs to be made about his consistent tolerance of his most intolerant owner. Stern’s continued inaction toward Sterling could be the biggest dark cloud on his career.
Donald Sterling’s life is now ruined – and deservedly so.
But David Stern was complicit toward Sterling for years – and should be ashamed of that legacy too.