For now, everyone's turning to the wrong people to make owner Donald Sterling accountable for a lifetime of deviance. From Chris Paul to Doc Rivers, they're asking the African-American leaders of these Los Angeles Clippers to make a stand while missing the years and years of those responsible for the true negligence.
Sterling has never been a Clippers problem, but an NBA problem. The commissioner's office believed Sterling was sick and dying, that he would go away, and only he comes back to haunt and embarrass the NBA again. The NBA deserved those audio tapes to come out from TMZ. The owners and commissioner's office deserved for Sterling to reveal himself again publicly as a racist and scoundrel.
This isn't about Chris Paul, the president of the National Basketball Players Association. This isn't about Doc Rivers, the president and coach of the Clippers. It isn't on them to make declarations and stage protests now. The NBA chooses its owners, and it makes its rules. It wields an iron fist with executives, coaches and players, and now it needs to do its job to begin the process of removing him as an owner.
"The content of his lawsuits alone should have been acted on, but the other members of the club – in addition to Stern – should have [held him] accountable," one high-level NBA official told Yahoo Sports on Saturday. "But no one would touch it. We were always holding players, teams and coaches accountable, yet the standard for owners has been a double standard."
In the middle of a playoff series, in a championship chase, star players are supposed to make a stand on a degenerate owner? Get lost with that nonsense. This is letting the NBA off too easy, letting it stay silent and inactive when that's what it's mostly been for decades on Sterling.
As president of the union, Chris Paul's message should be simple: This is the owners' and commissioner's mess, and they need to deal with it.
There are a handful of glamour markets in the NBA, and the owners have let Sterling control a part of one for years. No players and coaches have ever boycotted the Clippers because they knew he was a slumlord and a racist, and never will.
For all the chances Stern had to make a move on Sterling, it never happened because the NBA's owners never pushed Stern to do it. These owners were willing to live with Sterling, willing to be embarrassed by him.
As the NBA official said, "Being an owner comes with an obligation to your business partners that extends beyond just a fiduciary responsibility."
Whatever Chris Paul and Doc Rivers want to do here, that's on them. They don't have a responsibility, because it belongs to someone else. The NBA long has insisted it stands for something bigger than basketball, that it's sports' most progressive league, and Donald Sterling always has been the counter to that case. The league had hoped this sick, miserable old man would fade away, only he rose to humiliate them again. The National Basketball Association deserves Donald Sterling now, deserves him more than ever. Once and for all, it needs to deal with him.