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And Another Thing

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What to do about Sterling?

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has never been the sharpest tool in the shed. If he were, the Clippers might actually have won something in his 33-year tenure, aside from the first pick in the NBA draft an unbecoming number of times.

But no banners trumpeting Clippers' championships sway from on high in the Staples Center, a testament to Sterling's impressively consistent mediocrity as a team owner. That alone would make him the worst owner in professional sports, but give Sterling this: Perhaps no one ever has been so unafraid to explore the depths of the term "worst."

And so on top of his franchise's long record of failure, Sterling has added a reputation as, well, a reprehensible human being. He has a long history of being sued for racial discrimination in his real estate dealings; in 2009 and 2005, he settled multimillion-dollar lawsuits.

Now comes the TMZ tape of a man who's alleged to be Sterling explaining to his girlfriend that he really didn't want her bringing her black friends (including Magic Johnson) to Clippers games.

(Which, of course, goes back to the not-the-sharpest-tool-in-the-shed issue. Here's a guy who owns a team in a league that's 78 percent black, and he doesn't want black people at his games? Great business model there, Sparky).

At any rate, this is new NBA commissioner Adam Silver's mess now, and he needs to act. If the man on the tape is indeed Sterling, this surely has to be the last straw in an entire bale of straws. Silver may not be able legally to force Sterling out as the Clippers' owner, but there's more than one way to skin that cat. It's not like it hasn't been done before.

Here's the thing, see: You can't maintain any credibility as the commissioner of a league that, again, is 78 percent black, if you don't deal with what's pretty much straight-up racist behavior. And Silver's the only one who can really deal with it.

As Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who is black, so eloquently explained yesterday, it's not up to his team to take action. Their job is to win basketball games, no matter for whom they're winning them. Because ultimately they're winning them for themselves.

This is not to say that Rivers didn't make it abundantly clear that Sterling's latest alleged outburst was either forgivable or acceptable by him or any of his players, who apparently briefly considered a boycott. And that, in 2014, includes his white players, too.

"It's about being human," Rivers said. "We're not going to get into what race we are because we represent each other and this is our team and that's the way we're going to keep it. No one was happy about it. J.J. Redick (who is white) was just as p***** as Chris Paul and that's the way it should be.

"It's disturbing. It's disturbing if you hear it from anyone. It doesn't matter if he works with us or for us. It's a disturbing comment but we have to be above it right now. There will be a time and a place for us to have a reaction but this is not the time or the place."

Absolutely true. But for Adam Silver?

It's long past the time and place.

Ben Smith's blog.

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