Blakely: Sterling comments hurt on many levels

Blakely: Sterling comments hurt on many levels
April 27, 2014, 4:00 pm
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There's no clear direction as to what the fall-out will be for the Los Angeles Clippers and their owner (for now at least) Donald Sterling whose not-so-private racist rant was played for the world to hear courtesy of TMZ.

But it's clear that a divorce of some kind will likely be forthcoming between Doc Rivers and the Clippers unless the NBA and its owners take Sterling out the picture.

Rivers, who is Vice President of basketball operations as well as the Clippers' head coach, is doing the right thing now.

He's saying what needs to said, sprinkled with a heavy dose of "I don't know" for good measure, keeping the conversation on the team and the next game and not his future and Sterling's racist rant.

But when the President of the United States is in Malaysia and one of the first questions he gets is about the Sterling incident, yeah, it's a pretty big deal.

And that is why this marriage between Rivers and this Sterling-owned franchise can't go on from here.

This isn't a bump in the road, people.

This is a crater-from-outer-space sized pot hole with no way of being closed up anytime soon, as long as Sterling remains the team's owner which is a position he has maintained since 1981.

And the whole incident raises questions as to why is the league now all of a sudden taking great interest in his racist behavior even though he has a well-documented past filled with race-related problems?

It's simple.

In the past, the league treated Sterling like that crazy old uncle who mumbles to himself, all the time.

You know he's there, you acknowledge him and yes he's a little off his rocker, but he's not hurting anybody.

Remember, for the bulk of Sterling's reign as the Clippers owner, they were the laughingstock of the NBA.

They sucked, but they were in L.A. and they made him a lot - A LOT - of money.

So the league's owners and players tolerated him.

But this latest incident cuts deep due to it being hurtful to so many, on so many levels.

There was a verbal shot taken at Magic Johnson, who whether you love or loathe the Lakers, he's NBA royalty.

You have current players like LeBron James who tends to say little on social issues of this magnitude, chiming in that he would have a problem playing for an owner like Sterling.

Even Michael Jordan spoke on the matter.


Michael Jordan.

THAT Jordan!

This is a potential powder keg for the NBA, which is why they have to get this under control ASAP before it starts to impact the bottom line which when it comes to the NBA, is about making money.

And simply forcing him to sell the team will only fatten his pockets even more which is the last thing the league or anyone aside from Sterling and his accountants want to see come as a result of all this.

Whatever punishment is decided upon, it should be one that ultimately results in him no longer owning the team.

You'll hear lots of numbers thrown out as far as what he should be fined, if at all.

Here's one: $500 million.

The slumlord business has been good to Sterling, but not THAT good!

Such a penalty would leave him little choice but to sell the team which according to Forbes magazine is worth $575 million.

To get this guy out of the league for a fraction of what the team is worth (after he pays his fine of course) is worth it.

And the league needs to put the heat on him to sell the team quickly.

So give him a deadline.

Make it so that if he doesn't have a deal in principle by the NBA draft to sell the team, every player on his payroll will become a free agent July 1.

Could you imagine the feeding frenzy if teams had a shot at snatching Chris Paul or Blake Griffin?

Or the idea that Doc Rivers could be coaching the New York Knicks next year? Or worst if you're a Clippers fan ... the Lakers!

The possibility of losing all that talent in one big swoop is plenty of motivation for Sterling to sell, well aware that those departures would deliver a significant blow to the prospects of him selling the team for something relatively close to fair market value.

Anything short of getting rid of Sterling probably won't be enough to convince Rivers to stick it out even if it means leaving eight figure's worth of salary on the table.

Rivers wants to win now, which is why he left Boston in the first place.

But even he has a price.

Like the NBA, he showed a willingness to look past Sterling's past transgressions.

But the cost involved in doing business with Sterling, now more than ever, appears to be too steep all - Rivers included.