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NBA right to come down hard on Sterling

Last Modified: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 4:31 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

You can’t change a person’s heart, but you can take away his power.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver was right to put the hammer down on Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

The lifetime ban, heavy fine and attempt to ultimately force him to lose his team were not only well within Silver’s powers, but also in the best interest of the league.

Let’s face it though, this was an easy call for Silver.

Sterling teed him up for the big hit himself by spewing his racial venom.

The only way Silver didn’t gain total support was to do not enough.

However, Silver set the right tone with his voice, stating not only his professional but personal outrage toward Sterling.

Of all our professional sports leagues, race plays out largest in the NBA. It is a league that for the most part was built on the dollars of rich, older white males and the sweat of young black men.

That alone leads to trust issues.

But that was the old NBA, one that had more Sterlings leading teams then we would ever like to admit.

Granted, not all of them are gone, but the younger owners and wiser players have filled voids left by some of the old guard who have seen their time pass.

That’s why it was important that Silver not only hand down punishment but also send a loud message clear to all — that the NBA is not going back in time but rather continuing to move forward.

This is not a black and white issue. This is a right and wrong issue.

Sterling was wrong. Silver got it right.

Then again Silver had to do this.

He had to send a message to the players that he was on their side. He had to send a message to the sponsors that he is going to hear their cries.

Sterling will get his money when the team is finally sold. The rich always get richer. But it is important to note that the rest of the league is a winner.

The ironic thing in all this is that more than any team in Los Angeles, the Clippers reflected the face of the city.

Having covered sports in L.A. for two decades, I can tell you no team had a more diverse crowd than the Clippers.

The very people Sterling violated with his vomit are the ones that made him rich.

Now comes the tough questions, are we going to hold all parties up to such standards?

Kobe Bryant was only fined for his anti-gay slur last year during a game. Could he now be banned for a lifetime since the precedent has been set?

If the NBA is going to become the moral sports leader, he must next time.

But that is a different story for a different time.

Now we know that Adam Silver understands what is right and what is wrong. He understood that allowing Sterling to stay would set the league back at least 35-40 years.

We all know times have changed, the world has changed and the games we play have changed.

It is good to see that Silver understands that and is willing to make sure his league is really ready to change.

No, you can’t change the hatred one spews from his mouth, but you sure can take away his microphone.

Sterling’s silence will be golden.

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at

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