In the wake of the scandal surrounding the alleged racist comments from Clippers owner Donald Sterling, there was a cacophony of public demand for the owners to denounce Sterling and push for substantial punishment.
There is apprehension that if Sterling is indeed the person caught on tape in the remarks, that ownership will once again go easy on him as they have done in the past, sweeping the matter under the rug to avoid setting a precedent that could harm them in future scandals by empowering broad punitive strength from the commissioner's office.
Many have even pre-emptively criticized NBA ownership, with the widespread belief being that Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is the only one who has spoken out on the issue. But Jordan actually inititally declined comment on the matter before later issuing a harsh public statement. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban aso initially declined comment.
But Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive was actually ahead of the pack, tweeting Saturday night:
Spurs owner Peter Holt also spoke Saturday, saying that he didn't want to jump the gun on the investigation... and then pretty much jumping the gun anyway.
“I want to be very careful,” Holt said. “The league is doing its own investigation and I don't want to jump the gun.
“I don't know the context, but from what I've heard it sounds bad and it isn't like this is the first go-around for him.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was more direct.
“The comments are obviously disgusting,” he said.
Holt lamented the fact Sterling's alleged comments distract from his own team's accomplishments this season, the NBA in general and the playoffs now underway.
“They've got a great team and the problem with it for him, in my opinion — forget the NBA — is that it takes away from the success of the team and the focus on the team, which is unfortunate,” Holt said. “That's where the focus should be, in my opinion. That's my issue with any owner when they take away from what's real, which is the games, the playoffs, the team, the hard work the team has done and where they are today, in any way, shape or form, negatively or positively, and put the spotlight on themselves.
“I just think the spotlight needs to be where it should be, and that's the teams and the games. That's what our fans are interested in. Some owners believe they're interested in the owners. I don't buy that, personally, and after being in the league 18 years I think I've figured out some of it.”
And after Jordan's statement, on Monday came a cavalcade of criticism in the form of official statements from NBA ownership. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander brought out the hammer when discussing the situation with clear outrage:
Calling the comments “disgusting,” Alexander said he told Silver he should stab “a sword” into the heart of Sterling's ownership of the Clippers.
“I thought that there's got to be a way to disrupt him from owning the team,” said Alexander, who after 20 years owning the Rockets is one of the longest tenured owners in the NBA. “I gave him the sword to deal with this. I said, ‘Let the players become free agents.'”
Alexander said the goal of his suggestion was not to break up the Clippers, considered among the league's top teams, or even to punish Sterling. He said the objective was solely to back Sterling into a corner from which he will choose to sell the Clippers.
The NBA constitution does not allow the league owners to remove Sterling, Alexander said. But he added that the NBA needed to take steps to drive Sterling from the league.
“This kind of behavior can't be allowed in the NBA by owners, players or anybody,” Alexander said. “This guy has no place in the family of the NBA. Whatever it takes, we have to make sure this kind of event never happens again.”
The first step to ensuring that, he said, was to get Sterling out of the league.
“I mentioned that to Adam,” Alexander said. “I told Adam I don't think he can be removed because the constitution (of the NBA) only allows him to be removed except for gambling. I'm not sure that legally can be done. But if he loses his players, nobody is going to want to go there. He'll only be able to get a player that is worth $2 million and will play for $12 (million.) And who is going to want to coach there?
“If you're a player in the NBA you don't want to play for somebody like that. If you worked for a company, you would walk away and say, ‘I'm gone.” I think the players should have that right.”
Though Alexander had referred to the NBA “family,” and said that he and Silver did discuss if there was anything that could have been done sooner to sanction or even remove Sterling, he was especially dismayed by the suggestion that he and other NBA owners are in any way represented by Sterling. Though they share inclusion in a 30-member club, and an even smaller group of owners with decades long place in the league, Alexander said theirs is more of a forced association.
“I'm really upset that some of the press has lumped us together as one,” Alexander said. “We are 30 different individuals and most of us are not even friends. We are business associates. To lump us together is beyond the pale.”
Still, as “disgusting” as Alexander said Sterling's comments were, there was something missing from his reaction that revealed much of what he thought of Sterling.
“I wasn't,” Alexander said, “really surprised.”
From Lakers president Jeanie Buss:
“The comments and sentiments expressed on the tape are reprehensible and disturbing, and certainly are the opposite of how the Lakers feel about the league's players and fans. I have full confidence that Adam Silver and the NBA will handle this situation appropriately.”
From Pacers owner Herb Simon:
"I want our players, our coaches, and everyone in our community to know that I believe statements attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling are appalling, offenseive, and totally contrary to my core beliefs and everyone in our entire organization. I am confident that Commissioner Adam Silver, who will speak tomorrow, and his staff wll exercise due dilligence on behalf of the National Basketball Association,its players and our fans and arrive at a solution that addresses the seriousness of the situation."
From Wizards owner Ted Leonsis:
As I have stated, there should be zero tolerance for hatemongering.
Hate speech demonstrates an ignorance that is unacceptable, and I implore all of us to help eliminate any form of discrimination.
I have full confidence that Commissioner Silver will conduct a thorough investigation and act accordingly upon his findings.
From the San Jose Mercury News, speaking with Warriors owner Joe Lacob:
Q: What is your reaction to the comments on the Sterling recording and comments?
LACOB: Clearly inappropriate. It's very sad that we have to all go through this.
Hopefully we can get through this and resolve the issues and put it behind us. But clearly very inappropriate behavior.
It's just something that I think no matter who you are, racism doesn't belong period, in any way, doesn't matter, black, white, whatever color. Inappropriate.
I wish we didn't have to do this today. I wish our game didn't have to be the centerpiece of all this today. I feel bad for our fans and players and everybody who will have to deal with this.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban maintained his position of relative no-comment, wanting to condemn the comments without actually commenting on the matter.
Sometimes people think you have to comment on everything in this day and age,” Cuban said. “When somebody says something, it's better to just let what's been said be the headline, because that sends a far greater message.”
The comments, made public when TMZ released a recording of an argument with Sterling and his girlfriend, are being investigated by the NBA. Cuban deferred to the league office when asked about potential discipline for Sterling.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called the comments “disgusting.” The usually outspoken Cuban felt it was unnecessary for him to weigh in on the issue.
“They stand on their own, just because they're pretty self-evident on the surface,” Cuban said. “There's no reason to add any commentary or headlines to it. ...
“The obvious is the obvious. There's no reason for me to repeat the obvious.”
Cuban did acknowledge the severity of the issue, but he repeatedly said it's an issue for commissioner Adam Silver and the league to address.
“Obviously if any business or entrepreneur says and does things that aren't congruent with what the organization's trying to convey, that's a problem,” Cuban said.
“But it's not my problem. Not my chair, not my problem. I'm not going to offer any opinions. It's just not appropriate.”
From Heat owner Micky Arison:
In a statement, Heat owner Micky Arison calls Donald Sterling's comments “appalling, offensive and very sad.”— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) April 26, 2014
From Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf:
Jerry Reinsdorf statement on Sterling: "The issue is now in league hands and I'm confident the Commissioner will act quickly, appropriately"— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 28, 2014
Petatements attributed to Clippers owner Donald Sterling, if true, are abhorrent, and not acceptable for the owner of an NBA franchise or anyone in professional sports. We at the Trail Blazers reject any and all such sentiments, and believe NBA leadership should take swift and impactful action in this case.”
From Sixers managing owner Josh Harris:
“Without question, discrimination in any form is unacceptable and has no place in the National Basketball Association or anywhere else in society. The comments were hurtful and outrageous, and in no way reflect the values and beliefs of myself, our ownership group or the Philadelphia 76ers organization.
I am confident that Commissioner Silver will undertake a thorough and thoughtful investigation into the matter.”
From Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert:
"It is shocking that anyone could hold the kind of offensive and feeble minded views that are being attributed allegedly to the Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. The diverse staff members of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise are unified in encouraging Commissioner Silver and the NBA to respond with swift and appropriate action consistent with a strong zero tolerance approach to this type of reprehensible behavior."
The outcry comes in the wake comments released first to TMZ and then Deadspin over the weekend from a recorded conversation between Sterling and his girlfriend.
Adam Silver said over the weekend that the league intends to find a resolution before Game 5 of the Clippers-Warriors series Tuesday night. It's not known as of yet whether the NBA is ready to issue punishment in the event that Sterling is identified as the person on the tape.
The outrage over the comments grew like wildfire after the recording was first leaked Friday. Players from all across the league, current and former, spoke out against it. Kevin Johnson met with Silver on Sunday to represent the players' union. Sponsors began pulling their support from the Clippers Monday morning. The Clippers players reportedly considered boycotting Game 4, and they staged a silent protest on Sunday before Game 4 vs. the Warriors by turning their warmups inside out.