There’s never a dull year in the world of sports, and 2014 was certainly no exception. While it definitely had its low points (Donald Sterling, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson), 2014 still produced more than its fair share of memorable games, performances and moments, so let’s take a look back at some of the best things that the world of sports had to offer in 2014.
In the most expected legal maneuver since Vinny Gambini called Mona Lisa Vito as a witness, ousted Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has appealed the ruling that approved the team’s sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
On Friday, lawyers for Sterling asked the Second District Court of Appeals to stay a probate judge’s ruling that essentially approved the sale. Sterling’s representatives claim the judge prematurely finalized his ruling so the sale could be completed without the chance for an appeal.
It is unlikely that the action will have any effect since the sale would likely be able to go forward while the appeal moves through the courts. The judge barred any delays in the sale pending appeal.
Shelly Sterling, Donald’s estranged wife, negotiated a $2 billion sale after the NBA banned the 80-year-old owner for life after he was recorded making offensive remarks about minorities.
Regardless of Sterling’s legal maneuvering, the sale is a foregone conclusion. The NBA and commissioner Adam Silver will not allow him to own a franchise and if they did players have already threatened a boycott. It won’t happen, Sterling is done and out no matter what happens with the legal system.
Yesterday Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling’s wife of 59 years, agreed to sell the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Ballmer, who resides in Washington, was part of a group that bid for the Sacramento Kings last year in hopes of moving the team to Seattle. Ballmer is also an investor in Seattle’s Sonics Arena, an NBA-ready sports venue currently in development.
Lawyers for Donald Sterling say that he has not signed off on the sale, but his signature may not be necessary. According to ESPN reporter Ramona Shelbourne’s sources, Mrs. Sterling is now the sole trustee of the Sterling family trust, as a result of her husband being declared mentally incapacitated. There could be some legal hiccups ahead, but both Shelly Sterling and Ballmer expect the sale to go through.
Ballmer, who would be the team’s sole owner, has said that he plans to move to Los Angeles and has no intention to move the team. Of course, when Clay Bennett purchased the SuperSonics in 2006, he said publicly that the team would stay in Seattle. The franchise moved to Oklahoma City two years later. And when a group from Sacramento bought the Kings in 1983, they assured the public that they would keep the team in Kansas City. The Sacramento Kings made their debut in 1985. In 1999 the NBA blocked the sale of the Vancouver Grizzles to St. Louis Blues owner Bill Laurie, who made no secret of his plans to move the Grizz to St. Louis. The NBA instead approved sale of the team to Michael Heisley, who voiced a commitment to building a winning team in Vancouver. The Grizzlies left for Memphis in 2001.
History tells us that, if an owner wants to relocate an NBA franchise, the first step is to announce that he or she has no plans to move the franchise. The league has been reluctant to approve sales to persons and groups who are honest about their intentions. So it’s hard to take Ballmer at his word, particularly given his past efforts to bring basketball back to the Emerald City. Don’t be surprised if Blake Griffin and Chris Paul open the 2016-17 season in Seattle Sonics jerseys.
For that matter, why shouldn’t the Clippers move to Seattle? Why should a team with two of the NBA’s 10-best players and a chance to flourish under the league’s wealthiest owner (Ballmer) be the number two team in its own city? And why should two NBA teams share the same building when there’s a major market with a rich pro basketball tradition that is desperate for a team?
Not that it really matters at this point, but the NBA never actually gave the Clippers permission to move to Los Angeles in the first place. The league fined Donald Sterling $25 million when he moved the team out of San Diego in 1984. (After a legal battle, the NBA dropped the fine to $6 million.) In recent years the Clips have become a legitimate NBA franchise, but the team has spent much of its tenure in L.A. in the Western Conference cellar with an owner notorious for treating employees poorly, his inability to re-sign free agents, and settling housing discrimination lawsuits out of court for large sums of money. Everybody loves Lob City and Doc Rivers, but let’s not forget the disaster that has been much of the Donald Sterling era. And let’s not pretend that the Los Angeles Clippers, at least the version we’ve known for most of the past three decades, will be missed if they go elsewhere.
Since moving to the Staples Center in 1999 the Clippers have had respectable attendance numbers. And, to be fair to Clippers fans, the Clips outdrew the Sonics from 2001 through 2008, the team’s final seven seasons in Seattle. Granted, the Clippers have a larger venue to work with, and it wasn’t that long ago that the Sonics were averaging a sellout.
But the fact remains that Los Angeles has another team, one that has been around a lot longer than the Clippers and one that southern Californians care about a whole lot more than they care about the Clippers. And Steve Ballmer, given his deep pockets and past efforts to bring basketball back to Seattle (and his efforts to buy out Clay Bennett to keep the team from moving to Oklahoma in the first place), would be the ideal person to resurrect the Sonics.
So let’s get this done. Would the NBA and pro basketball fans around the world miss the Los Angeles Clippers? Maybe. But not nearly as much as we miss the Seattle SuperSonics.
On Monday the NBA officially charged Donald Sterling with damaging the league and its teams with his racist comments, and set up a hearing on June 3 where the other owners could vote to terminate his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The league additionally said that the banned owner has conducted himself in a way that has damaged its relationships with fans and merchandising partners. Basically, the NBA claims Sterling is bad for business and is a horrible representative for the league, so he has to go.
In a statement the league said the following:
All of these acts provide grounds for termination under several provisions of the NBA constitution and related agreements.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and issued a $2.5 million fine after the release of a recording in which he made racist comments to his mistresses, V. Stiviano. He has until May 27 to respond to the charge and can appear at the June 3 hearing and present his case to the NBA’s board of governors. If he doesn’t respond to the charges or appear at the hearing, it would be deemed an admission of his guilt according to the NBA’s constitution.
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is the chairman of the board of governors and will preside over the hearing. The hearing will likely last two days and is set for just before the NBA Finals. If two-thirds of the owners vote to oust him, Sterling will be forced to sell the team.
Silver is confident he has to votes to boot Sterling.
The NBA’s statement about the charges continued:
Among other things, Mr. Sterling disparaged African-Americans and ‘minorities’; directed a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games; and criticized African-Americans for not supporting their communities.
Mr. Sterling’s actions and positions significantly undermine the NBA’s efforts to promote player diversity and inclusion; damage the NBA’s relationship with its fan; harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel; and impair the NBA’s relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders.
From that statement, two things are clear: 1. Whoever is writing the NBA’s press releases loves semi-colons, and 2. Sterling is done, he has zero chance.
A significant number of sponsors immediately suspended their deals with the Clippers and several prominent players have claimed they would consider a boycott next season if Sterling was still the Clippers owner. The league can’t have stuff like that hanging over its head.
There is no way the other owners don’t vote to oust him.
Every week a new development has risen relating to Donald Sterling. In the latest turn in what has been a month-long reaction to comments made by the Clippers owner, it has been announced that LeBron James and other NBA stars would take a seat next season if Sterling was still involved with the Clippers franchise.
On Jim Rome’s program on Showtime program, vice president of the NBA Players Association Roger Mason made it clear that if Sterling was still in control of the Los Angeles Clippers at the beginning of next season, James and other players would sit out in protest during the 2014-15 campaign.
While it’s understandable why James would want to sideline his talents next year if Sterling is still in power in L.A., is the threat of a boycott and potential “lockout” of the league’s top stars warranted?
No. Not even a little.
There is no question that the things Sterling said were hateful, racist and downright sleazy, and it’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that an owner and leader of in one of America’s most diverse sporting leagues thinks the way he does. Anger and frustration is certainly justified.
But before we think of the players taking a stand against intolerance and bigotry, let’s trek back to the 2011-2012 season, the NBA’s most recent lockout year. While league officials battled with NBA players and owners trying to settle on a Collective Bargaining Agreement, league popularity took a minor hit, arena workers were left with uncertainty and no paychecks and fans were left frustrated.
Is it acceptable that Sterling made those remarks? Absolutely not. But the cost of a boycott could be so much greater than the ramblings of an 80-year-old bigot.
Is a protest worth the uncertainty that arena workers and other NBA staff members will struggle with for a second time in the past four years?
Is it worth sitting out for a few games, months or even an entire season if Sterling isn’t ousted, potentially angering fans and losing the interest of so many loyal basketball patrons? Is it worth the risk of the league losing more popularity as some will view a stand for individual rights as nothing more than an overreaction by a bunch of spoiled brats?
Those are questions that the front-runners in the potential protest must answer. Has James thought about all of the individuals this will impact? Or is he so financially sound that he doesn’t care about how his choice to sit out will affect others, so long as his point is heard?
To me, players choosing stay away from the basketball court if Sterling is still an owner in 2014-15 somehow makes him a winner in all of this. In the mind of the current Clippers owner, he would have made such an impact on the game that a few words sparked a revolt. Would NBA players really want to give him that satisfaction?
The likely scenario is that Sterling will be ousted from his position as owner of the Clippers, never to be heard from or seen again in a professional sports setting and devaluing the purpose of this article.
I hope that’s the case.
If it’s not and Sterling is somehow still running the show for the Clippers, whether through legal battles or a lack of action from the NBA and its owners, I hope that LeBron takes some things into consideration outside of his own frustration.
Don’t let a man who has already hurt and disappointed so many people negatively affect so many more.
Play next season and let the NBA worry about ownership.