New commissioner Adam Silver knew when he took over the NBA that it would be a tough gig, but Silver never expected he would have to deal with a landmark case in less than three months on the job.
The issue that has enraged individuals across the country is of course over the racist remarks that the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, made in a taped phone conversation to his “girlfriend” V. Stiviano. Sterling went on a racist rant over Stiviano posing with Magic Johnson, and he berated her for posting photos of herself with African-Americans on Instagram. The vile and revolting comments now put commissioner Silver in the hot seat, and how he handles this situation could be the defining moment of his legacy.
Understandably, most people want quick and swift justice brought down upon the 80-year-old owner of the Clippers. The situation becomes difficult to dissect, however, because while Sterling’s comments were horrific, his remarks are difficult to classify as breaking any laws. If it was proven that Sterling refused to draft certain players or allow fans to attend games because of the color of their skin, then Silver would have a much easier time persecuting the aging owner. The recorded tape still needs to be authenticated, though, and the fact that the wife of Sterling is reportedly suing Stiviano leads me to believe that the girlfriend was trying to set up and possibly extort the 80-year-old.
The best decision that Silver can make is to let the facts surface and not to rush into a hasty decision. Some may feel that NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell can take too long in his decisions, but few can argue the fact that he is able to effectively adapt to the changing world around the league. While MLB just recently accepted instant replay as a necessary part of the game, Goodell is already looking into adding extra referees to help things run more smoothly for coaches and fans. He is always tinkering to make things better, and that is the type of individual needed to run a professional sports league.
If Goodell had decided that he was going to immediately support Aaron Hernandez, he would have looked very foolish as the details of the murder case were revealed. He gets all of his facts in order, and then he releases a statement instead of instantly reacting to a situation. Goodell also wants a clear message sent of the type of ramifications that players and coaches can face if they violate his rules, and suspending head coach Sean Payton for an entire season for allowing the New Orleans Saints to run a bounty program that promoted knocking players out of a game showed that he was to be taken seriously.
While Silver has a very difficult decision ahead of him, he needs to follow Goodell’s examples. If he gathers all the information he possibly can, sets a clear precedent to the rest of the league on ethics and respect and can appease those who have been offended, then Silver will have successfully handled his first scandal.