NBA Commissioner Adam Silver elevated the league he oversees to something far above X’s and O’s Tuesday in levying a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
A taped telephone conversation in which Sterling chastised his mistress for associating with African-Americans including Magic Johnson, one of the great ambassadors of class and sportsmanship in any arena, infuriated much of the nation.
Silver, barely a year into his job as commissioner following the retirement of David Stern, did not falter in this, the biggest challenge he has faced since taking office. His comments in announcing the ban and fine sent a message to the world: There is no place for racist actions, including comments as hurtful as those expressed by Sterling.
The playing field of sports has a rich history of bringing together athletes, coaches and fans of all colors, cultures and ethnicities. Sterling’s senseless babble was an affront not just to Magic Johnson and players past and present, but to all of us who have enjoyed the fellowship of sports.
Whether a billionaire such as Sterling can learn something from this seems doubtful. But now is the time for the rest of us to make others take note – and a lesson – from this vile incident.