Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Explaining Variation: Why Sterling Gets Punished Now for Always Being a Racist

Lots of folks are frustrated/puzzled why the NBA is kicking out Donald Sterling over a few words he said in private as opposed to the many racist things he has done in the past, especially being found guilty of engaging in discriminatory practices regarding his real estate.

Since Sterling's racism is a constant, we need to figure out what is different now:
  • The obvious one: new commissioner Adam Silver.  New boss in town, needs to establish his authority, not burdened by past decisions.  He does not have live by the stupid rule that just because we did something dumb before does not mean we have to keep doing it.
  • My favorite theory: the NBA has gotten serious about slurs--especially against gays.  When this came up, the NBA had less room to duck and dodge because the policies made it clear that words mattered.
  • The players were ready to act, as news came out that if Silver did not act, one or more teams were not going to play in Tuesday night's playoff games.  
  • Audio matters.  Legal stuff does not get people as upset as hearing a tape recording.  Stupid perhaps because the housing discrimination is serious, harmful stuff.  But the media can play and replay and ask for reactions.
I think all of this mattered.  I do think that Silver was not bound by David Stern's past decisions to protect the racist.  I also think that the owners have gotten sick of Sterling and the damage he was doing to a prime league asset after he got a gift in the form of Chris Paul after Stern killed a trade that would have brought him to the Lakers.  

Yes, Sterling will make something like a billion dollar profit when he sells the team, which apparently the league can force.  So, his only punishment will be to his ego and also the loss of the profits from the next contract.  But the league is better off without him.... finally. 

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