The NFL leads the other major sports in media coverage and entertainment value, not only because it is a superb and TV friendly product, but also because of the off-the-field drama and theatrics that lend itself to year round critique. Whether the topic is sports safety, violence, or even sexuality, the NFL covers it all and, compared to the other major sports, is at the forefront of discussion. More than just a game, the NFL leads all other major sports in issues that become water cooler topics for those not even interested in the sport. Whether its stars are suing for head trauma, committing murders, torturing dogs, or even coming out of the closet, the NFL stays in the public lexicon and fosters discussion that reaches above and beyond ESPN. This has helped make the NFL not only the most popular sport in America, but also a soap opera that has more story lines than The Wire and Sopranos combined. And very much like those shows, the fans fashion and create narratives to support, or discredit, their allegiances, or prejudices. All of the off-the-field fodder ultimately is a boon to the league as it keeps the NFL in your mind and on your tongue.
It is in this vein that the NBA must keep Donald Sterling as an owner. With the release of the recording of his personal prejudices, he vaulted the NBA onto the top of the national news cycle. Sterling and his Archie Bunker persona was discussed everywhere from The View to The Daily Show. During a year Lebron James and the Heat are going for their 3rd straight championship, talk of a 81 year old racist owner cavorting with a woman 50 years younger dominated the news cycle. For a few days it even trumped the NFL Draft, which is truly an achievement given the spectacle that this years talent heavy draft was projected to be.
However, none of this was new information. Sterling's previous transgressions and hatreds were openly discussed in public prior to these tapes, so the shock that is being displayed by the NBA elite is very disingenuous. Also, while the sentiment Adam Silver exhibited in trying to force Sterling to sell the team is nice on its face, it almost surely will not hold up in court. I am hard pressed to fathom how a guy who said a private thing in his private home would cause him to lose a private business, while his discrimination proved in actual federal real estate cases was not ground for a forced sale years ago. Furthermore, Elgin Baylor already had a suit against the guy claiming racism/discrimination. Where was the outrage then?
But I digress, a public bad guy would be good for the NBA. Every great drama needs it's villain and what better villain than an old, rich, racist owner in a sport dominated by the race he doesn't want to be associated with? Why force him into shame, when you can continue the race discussion that has been started through the release of these tapes? Racial issues need to be discussed openly in society for old ideas and barriers to be broken, not shoved into the underground where they can fester grow larger. We are far from a colorblind society, it behooves us to discuss these issues in an open and honest manner. The NBA could and should be at the forefront of this discussion by using this as an opportunity, not to simply shame a bigot, but to discuss race and discrimination in sports and society without pandering.
As always, thank you for reading.
Twitter - @RYANNARsayshi