From the very outset of the controversy surrounding Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Kevin Johnson has played a prominent role, acting as a representative for the players' association.
Johnson, a former NBA star, is also the first African-American mayor elected in Sacramento. As such, Johnson assumed a highly distinctive role as one of the elected officials who was perhaps most prominent in calling for sanctions against Sterling, essentially acting as a spokesman for the Clippers’ players.
By being so outspoken on the topic of Sterling and the racist comments recorded in a private conversation, Johnson was able to speak with authority as a former player. He also played a significant behind-the-scenes role between the executives of the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.
"People often say that someone is uniquely qualified to do something,” said Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a member of the California Assembly, in an interview with BET.com. “Mayor Johnson fits that mold on this particular issue. Chris Paul was brilliant in naming Kevin Johnson to mediate this issue."
Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, responded much in the way Johnson recommended by fining Sterling $2.5 million, barring him from any contact with his team and league and making clear he would work to force the Clippers’ owner to sell the team.
Johnson played as a point guard and scorer with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns from 1988 to 1999. He called the scandal involving Donald Sterling to be a significant and defining moment for the leadership of the NBA, adding that he found the remarks to be deeply offensive.
At the University of California at Berkeley, Johnson was named a two-time All-Pac-10 Conference player and an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press.
He is a 2000 graduate of the Harvard Divinity School Summer Leadership Institute, a program that prepares participants for work in faith-based urban economic revitalization efforts. He also has a degree in political science from the University of California at Berkeley.
After being elected mayor in 2008, Johnson launched two education initiatives, Stand UP and Sacramento READS!, to benefit students in Sacramento. Johnson also helped to save the Sacramento Kings basketball team from moving to Anaheim, and later, to Seattle.
Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan
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(Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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