There was once a period in the NBA where the top player didn’t stray from speaking out on causes that pertained to both the league and the players. That was Bill Russell.
In a similar role, while not fighting the same issues as Russell who dealt with the likes of racism, stereotypes, civil rights and other matters far more important to an entire generation, Lebron James, the league’s current top superstar, has taken a stance, stating the NBA doesn’t have room for a racist owner like Sterling.
“If the reports are true, it’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable in our league. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Hispanic, whatever, all across the races. It’s unacceptable and as a commissioner in our league, they have to make a stand, and they have to be very aggressive with it. I don’t what it’s going to be, but you just can’t have that in our league. We’re the model citizens of all sports around the world and because we’re the most recognizable, I mean, it figures. You see us all the time, you see our logos, you see our players, and for an owner to come out and say the things that he said, it’s very disrespectful, it’s very appalling and one of my best friends and dear friends plays on his team in Chris Paul and I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to him but I can only imagine what’s going through his head.”
“I don’t know. I kind of waivered back and forth whether I would actually sit out. If our owner would come out and say the things that he said, I would really have to sit down with my teammates, talk to my family because at the end of the day, our family, and our teammates are way more important than that. Basketball is huge, obviously the playoffs have been unbelievable, and I hate the fact that something like this has to come out when the playoffs have been unbelievable and the game of basketball continues to grow, but there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There is no room for him.”
Despite being the premiere superstar of the league, Lebron James didn’t have to publicly reveal his comments on how he feels about Stern. It shows how far along James has come as the face of the league, improving in maturation as he does in age. Lebron saying there’s no room for Sterling in the NBA puts pressure on Adam Silver to act, despite no one knowing exactly how he’ll attack this situation.
Will a fine suffice? That seems like a pat on the back and Silver will be heavily criticized for letting Sterling off easy. Silver could suspend Sterling for an extended period of time similar to David Stern and Glen Taylor in 2000, but racism isn’t illegal and the tape that was submitted to TMZ sports may end up thrown out of the case due to the manner in which it was obtained.
James’ comments speak volumes. He isn’t the first player to have an opinion on Sterling and he surely won’t be the last, but as the top dog in the league, setting a path for the league to follow is a great way to display the power he was. Clippers players have spoken out. Donald Sterling by way of a press release has spoken on the matter. The ball is in Adam Silver’s court now and we’re all waiting.