NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addresses the media during a Tuesday news conference in New York. Silver announced that he is banning Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling for life from the Clippers organization over racist comments in a recording. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, May 01, 2014 4:50 PM
With strong words and a sense of outrage, Adam Silver cleansed sports of its latest blemish.
In doing so, the NBA commissioner showed once again how sports can be a leader when it comes to social issues and change.
It has always been that way.
Ever since Jackie Robinson stepped onto the field in a Dodgers uniform, sports have been a compass for where America is and where it is headed.
By banning for life one of his own owners and telling the world he wants to strip him of his team, Silver showed a toughness and leadership that guides others from rough seas to calm waters.
Having long since helped control the wildfire that is race in sports, the NBA as a league decided to stamp out one of its remaining campfires in Donald Sterling before he could reignite the entire forest once again.
This is not to say race is gone from basketball, or society, but maybe this helps keep it in perspective.
A lot more people were willing to take the side of right rather than continue the ignorance of wrong.
It is a change, sometimes it just doesn’t come as quickly as we would like.
Many are now questioning, why if the league knew so much about Sterling before did it take so long for officials to act?
Simple answer is: timing.
There was no public outcry before. There was no smoking gun.
Sterling crept his way along, hiding in the shadows his true feelings.
Those who are questioning the NBA should ask themselves where they were during all this?
Living in the now, the league has some fresh blood, a new commissioner and some younger owners.
Also, the players have become empowered.
While not all of social media appears to be good, it does give everybody an equal voice. The NBA’s players used it to have their voices heard.
I would imagine this is just the start of things to come.
Sports, especially its athletes, have learned to be more than just gladiators performing for the masses. They have learned that they are now at the very least equal partners in the business, if not more.
This isn’t limited to the NBA or this one issue.
A few kids from Northwestern may have made the old dinosaurs in the NCAA lose a few bones when they earned the right to vote for the creation of a union.
We won’t know what the vote outcome was for some time thanks to court issues, but it shows athletes not only know their rights, but they want their voices heard as well.
This is our fault, you know. We asked them years ago to become role models and then complained when several proclaimed that was not in their contracts.
Truth is, on this issue the NBA players proved to be pretty good role models for the next generation, showing what can be accomplished.
We often marvel at what they do on playing fields and courts but rarely know what athletes stand for.
This time we found out quickly.
Silver will get most of the credit for the decision on Sterling, but he really had no choice.
Using their newfound power, the players had all but insisted the commish to lower the boom on Sterling.
Remember, Silver works for the owners so he was firing one of his bosses. That may be something a lot of people would like to do, but to actually do it …
No doubt he had the backing of at least most of the other 29 owners. More importantly, he had the urging of the players.
That might be all that matters now.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org