Adam Silver, who became NBA commissioner just three months ago, was handed a major controversy when L.A. Clippers team owner Donald Sterling was caught on tape late last week making racist comments.
(You can catch up on the story here.)
When the tapes became public on Saturday, many people were quick to react. Players demanded Sterling’s exit from the league, fans expressed outrage, and sponsors canceled their contracts with the Clippers.
All eyes turned to the NBA commissioner, wondering how he would handle the situation. The commissioner pledged to take action swiftly—and he did. He worked quickly to authenticate the tapes and gain the support of other league owners.
And this afternoon, he banned Mr. Sterling from the NBA for life.
That may have seemed like an obvious decision to make, but it was more complicated than it appeared. For example, Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban seemed to oppose a lifetime ban due to the “slippery slope” such a precedent would set. Other critics also wondered if the comments—which were made in private to a romantic partner—should have led to his removal as a team owner.
I understand those concerns, but I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the NBA’s handling of this incident. The League’s crisis management worked, and the NBA did almost everything right in terms of communicating with the press. The press conference itself was also handled well: A press handler, presumably an NBA staffer, selected the questioners and counted down when they would take only two more questions. Press conferences rarely run as smoothly.
I was particularly impressed by Silver’s reaction when a reporter asked him if he felt any special pain since he, like Sterling, is Jewish. I made a decision as a human being, Silver said, refusing to wallow in his personal feelings and make this incident about him.
Silver was handed a high-profile test that would determine whether or not he would establish himself as a leader. He passed with flying colors.
What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.