For the last few days, there has been an incessant refrain in the saga of Donald Sterling: What action will the National Basketball Association take and what’s taking them so long to take that action?
The answer came Tuesday in bold and uncompromising fashion.
Adam Silver, the league’s commissioner, struck a pitch-perfect tone that absorbed all the seriousness and outrage of the racial comments made by Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers' owner. At the same time, Silver was severe in his rebuke of Sterling, fining him $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.
What was doubly impressive was how Silver conveyed an image of a man who was personally pained by not only the racist comments of Sterling, but by the unnecessary vortex of controversy it had brought to the feet of professional basketball.
"The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful," Silver said. "We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling's views. They simply have no place in the N.B.A."
We live in an era where high-profile people seem to feel free to say any manner of offensive comments without an ounce of shame or remorse. Whether it is Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson or Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher, there is a trend in America now where outrageous comments arrest the national attention — usually without much comment outside of the community of progressive Americans — before vanishing without any real rebuke.
This in an era where a United States Congressman can shout at the president of the United States at a State of the Union message, calling him a liar before the entire nation, and, rather than suffer sanctions, see his campaign coffers swell with contributions from supporters.
And so it was incredibly heartening to see a matter like this handled appropriately, seriously and with severe punishment. To be honest, we’re not particularly accustomed to that these days.
The NBA response to Sterling was forthright and the sanctions were as harsh as the league could get. As to what took the NBA so long to respond, Silver was succinct. There have been only a few days since the recordings of Sterling's comments came to light and the league needed a little time to conduct some semblance of an investigation.
In doing so, Silver said that Sterling indeed acknowledged that it was his voice on the recordings. Silver had taken time to speak with some of the other team owners about forcing the Clippers’ owner out of his role in the NBA. While Silver said he had not surveyed all the owners, he felt confident that they would agree that Sterling had to go. After all, who would publicly come to the support of this character after the last few days of damaging news?
Of course, Sterling stands to make a tidy profit as a result of any sale that might yet materialize. But, there is great consolation in knowing that for generations to come, Sterling will be best known as an example of intolerance, racism and ignorance. And no amount of money will bring comfort to a man saddled with that kind of characterization.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan
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