With the allegations of racism against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling still pouring out, the NBA faces a real crisis. New commissioner Adam Silver needs to act quickly, but what, exactly he can do under league rules is still unclear. But the best possible avenue may have emerged, as Magic Johnson has let it be known that he wants to buy the Clippers.
According to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski Johnson and his billionaire backers, the Guggenheim Partners, are interested in purchasing the team. If the NBA wants to bail itself out of this crisis, the league should do all it can to facilitate a sale to someone with a far better public reputation. No one is more popular, or widely respected in NBA circles than Magic Johnson.
For years the NBA has essentially enabled Sterling despite repeated accusations of racism and his horrendous ownership record with the Clippers. In fact, without David Stern vetoing the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers, there is no reason to believe the franchise would have turned things around under Sterling’s leadership. That veto and Paul’s subsequent trade to the Clippers made the team a contender. But it took Stern essentially gift-wrapping Paul to the Clippers for it to happen.
Johnson and Guggenheim Partners already own the Los Angeles Dodgers and the group wants to start a sports empire in Southern California. Magic and company already made it known they wanted to buy the Lakers, but the Buss family has been clear that the franchise isn’t for sale. Because this would be a business decision, I have a hard time seeing Johnson shy away from buying the Clippers simply because he spent his entire career with the Lakers.
As things stand now, Sterling will almost surely never be allowed to attend another NBA game. The league simply can’t have him as a representative, especially in one of its biggest markets. Owners around the league now want him out. They don’t want a bigot as part of their fraternity because it makes the rest of them look bad by association.
Silver will be pushed to make a swift, decisive ruling once those vile tapes are authenticated, which they surely will be. At that point he’ll have to decide how he wants his tenure as commissioner to begin. He can do something quietly and usher Sterling to the side while still allowing him to own his team. Or he can make a declarative statement that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated, and should not have been accepted for more than two decades.
Sterling is a disgusting human being who should not be allowed to own an NBA franchise. Luckily for the NBA, the perfect owner appears to be waiting for his chance to buy the team.