Three years ago, in August, 2014, National Basketball League commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league, fined him $2.5 billion, and forced him to relinquish control of the team so it could be sold.
Sterling had committed a felony, committing the unspeakable crime of uttering racially biased remarks to his girlfriend, who proceeded to make them public.
This maneuver was engineered by the commissioner who now, Fox Business reports
says he expects players to adhere to league rules and stand for the national anthem amid a wave of protests in the NFL and other sports.
"Many of our players have spoken out already about their plan to stand for the anthem," Silver said Thursday. "And I think they understand how divisive an issue it is in our society right now."
Donald Sterling was revealed as a bigot or, as some would describe it, a racist. The movement to kneel prior to games in the National Football League (to which Silver was reacting) began as an effort by quarterback Colin Kaepernick to protest perceived racial bias in law enforcement.
Silver's actions may seem a contradiction. So what has changed in those three years to reveal Adam Silver as almost as hypocritical, in public, as Donald Sterling was bigoted, in private?
You know the answer to that. We've had the dramatic election of a man who practiced racial discrimination in his business career, rose to the presidency on the basis of denying that the first black president was born in the USA, seems to regard blacks as his personal property, and plays footsies with white supremacists. Bluster is his style, intimidation his intent.
And Adam Silver has changed his tune, radically- but there are two common threads to this transformation. The first is that in both instances, he is wrong. It was reprehensible that Donald Sterling got the figurative death penalty for remarks that can be heard in most bars in many households across the country almost any night. (Bob Dylan: "well, if my thought dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine.") And he is wrong now.
In both cases, moreover, Donald Sterling is caving in to pressure. He presides over a league in which- unlike the NFL- the players union has considerable influence. So, too, do its stars, most of whom are black.
Unlike in the NFL, the NBA's rules are what the marquee want them to be. Silver slammed the door on Sterling largely because the players forced him to act. With the NBA's exhibition season upon us, it's up to the players to decide what to do about what they wish to accomplish. If they want to bring attention to racial bias in law enforcement and/or the courts, they have it within their power to do so. (We're looking at you, LeBron James.)
If the superstars in the league determine what they want to accomplish, the other players will follow and Silver (as he did with Sterling) will fold. The ball is in their court.