By Sekou Smith, NBA.com
VIDEO: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addresses the media before the NBA Draft lottery
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You don’t have to guess what sort of impact the ongoing Donald Sterling affair is having on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
It’s written all over his face.
And when asked about it during a media gathering before Tuesday night’s NBA Draft lottery, the commissioner didn’t hide his disdain for the current phase of the process, the league-initiated charges to terminate Sterling’s ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers and the impact the issue has had on the perception and operation of the league at such an important time of the season.
Moments after Silver’s opening statement, when he praised the game at all levels as part of what he called a national and global “basketball renaissance,” the topic turned immediately to Sterling.
When asked what it meant to have the Sterling dominate the conversation each and every time he’s asked a question, the commissioner did not hold back.
“It’s a great question, and hard for me to put in words sometimes,” he said, “especially coming off some of the best playoffs, certainly in my memory. It makes me think of Kevin Durant‘s MVP speech … at one point Kevin Durant says, really addressing his mother, and I’m paraphrasing, he said, ‘Mom, we weren’t supposed to be here. The deck was stacked against us.’ I get choked up a little bit thinking about it. But I think Kevin Durant as our most valuable player embodies what our league is all about. And Mr. Sterling doesn’t.
“What made this moment bigger than basketball for everyone in the league is that it did come from within. Under David Stern and the commissioners that came before him, barriers were broken. And to the people that say it’s a slippery slope or what happens to the next owner or player that does something wrong? People always say that about race issues. It’s no secret we have a league where a majority of our players are African-American and the majority of our owners are not. This is as an egalitarian an institution as there is anywhere, at least that I know of , hiring players, coaches, front office personnel and within the owners ranks.”
Silver summed up his feelings by referencing his feeling the moment he heard the taped audio of Sterling making racist and bigoted comments that created a firestorm.
“It’s beyond anger,” Sterling said. “A certain sadness, a malaise. It’s something deeper than anger. I felt it when I first met with the Clippers. … We”re not a post-racial society. But at least within the boundaries of my authority, I feel a responsibility to protect the people in this league.”
The time frame for the process to strip Sterling of his ownership of the Clippers will move forward according to the dates outlined in the charges initiated by the league Monday:
The NBA initiated a charge Monday seeking to terminate the ownership of Donald Sterling in the Los Angeles Clippers. If the NBA Board of Governors sustains the charge by a 3/4 vote, all ownership interests in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold to new owners.
The NBA Constitution provides Mr. Sterling with the opportunity to respond to the charge by May 27, as well as the right to appear and make a presentation at a special meeting of the Board of Governors. This hearing, which is planned for June 3, will be presided over by NBA Board of Governors Chairman Glen Taylor, the controlling Governor of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The charge asserts that Mr. Sterling engaged in conduct that has damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its teams. Among other things, Mr. Sterling disparaged African-Americans and “minorities”; directed a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games; and criticized African-Americans for not supporting their communities.
Mr. Sterling’s actions and positions significantly undermine the NBA’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion; damage the NBA’s relationship with its fans; harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel; and impair the NBA’s relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders. Mr. Sterling engaged in other misconduct as well, including issuing a false and misleading press statement about this matter.
All of these acts provide grounds for termination under several provisions of the NBA Constitution and related agreements.
All that said, Silver did indicate that “Mr. Sterling still owns the Clippers” and that the commissioner would be open to a “man-to-man” discussion about how to handle the process going forward in way that would allow Sterling to sell.
But he was resolute in his stance that the league is doing what needs to be done by removing Sterling.
“My confidence level is high,” he said. “We’re doing the right thing and I know the owners are behind me. The timing is laid out in the NBA Constitution. We’re following it to the letter, in terms of numbers of days Mr. Sterling has to respond and the date the hearing [will be] held. It’s an unprecedented proceeding. Will there be bumps in the road? Yes. But I know we’re pursuing the right course.”