Adam Silver/Donald Sterling/Charlie Finley/Tom Yawkey/Willie Brown/Gavin Newsom; Michael Morse/Sonny Gray
THE NBA’S new commissioner, Adam Silver, stepped up to the plate big time when he suspended Donald Sterling for a year and fined him $2.5 million, while urging him to sell the team in a news conference yesterday.
That was the most Silver could do. The commissioner does not have the authority to oust a team owner. Other owners can, by a three-fourths vote. I’m sure Silver talked to them before his news conference and knows he has the support to force a sale.
Even before this, there was no question that Sterling was a racist. He had had to pay a $2.7 million fine when he was found guilty of racism in his real estate dealings. In his lawsuit against Sterling, Elgin Baylor had testified that, when he was general manager of the Clippers, Sterling had told him that he thought it would be best to have a Southern white man as the coach overseeing the black players. Baylor accused him of having a “plantation mentality.” But, Baylor lost his suit.
What finally did Sterling in was being caught on tape telling his half black/half Latina girl friend that he didn’t want her seen with her black friends on videos and didn’t want her bringing them to games, specifically mentioning Magic Johnson as one he didn’t want seen at a Clippers game.
The reaction was swift. Advertisers have been dropping the Clippers in droves. Newspaper columns, including mine in yesterday’s San Francisco Examiner, have urged Silver to get Sterling out of the NBA. His own players showed their dismay at his comments by wearing red shirts inside out so the team name wouldn’t show while the National Anthem was played before game 4 in Los Angeles. They played the subsequent game like zombies. Freed of the burden of their owner, the Clippers beat the Warriors in the fifth game of their playoff series. I expect them to win this series, possibly as early as the sixth game.
I’ve had some interesting e-mails on Sterling. Here are some of the questions raised:
--Why haven’t sportswriters campaigned more to get Sterling out, since his racist attitude has been known for some time?
This may come as a shock, but those who get into sportswriting do it because they want to write about sports, not racial or political issues. I’ve sometimes been an exception but I usually write about local issues.
There has been any number of racist owners. Going way back, Tom Yawkey wouldn’t sign Willie Mays, even though Ted Williams begged him to, because he was from South Carolina. Yawkey was consistent: He didn’t employ blacks in any significant position in his organization.
Locally, Charles Finley was very racist. Also, terrible in his treatment of his wife. Finley was every bit as despicable as Sterling but there wasn’t much local coverage of either the A’s or Seals. I criticized his treatment of Vida Blue and his wife, when that news came out, but I had to tread carefully because little real information was out there.
Sometimes, writers are critical when the news is overwhelming. That happened with Marge Schott as owner of the Reds in the ‘90s – the closest comparison to Sterling. The Reds were very successful and Cincinnati was known as the birthplace of baseball, so Schott’s intemperate comments put her directly in the spotlight. She was suspended first but when she came back, she couldn’t stop drinking or talking and she was finally ousted from baseball.
Ironically, Sterling’s recent problems came because the team suddenly got good. Before that, he had been regarded as a buffoon whose bad decisions led to bad teams. When his team got good, he was suddenly in the spotlight – and his comments enraged everybody but Cliven Bundy.
--Why didn’t Clippers players rebel against Sterling before this.
Frankly, it’s not usually the nature of athletes to rebel. They’re striving to get into a major league, in any sport, and staying there is their focus. For black athletes, there’s always been racism, sometimes subtle, sometimes not, which they’ve had to ignore. It was even worse earlier. In doing team histories on the 49ers and Giants, I heard some awful stories from Joe Perry in his early years with the Niners and from Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda in their minor league years.
Athletes today listen to their managers or coaches. Even front office executives are not usually on their radar, and an owner, even a crazy one, is usually ignored. (The ‘70s A’s were an exception; players often said they were united by their hatred of Finley. But that was more because he was so cheap, in an era before free agency.)
--Why didn’t the league do something before this.
The commissioner before Silver, David Stern, was primarily concerned with expanding the NBA world-wide and making it more profitable. He did admirably in those regards, and he also shared in the economic growth.
When my wife and I were on one of our Christmas cruises in the Caribbean, about three years ago, we ended the cruise in Fort Lauderdale and were not flying out until 5:30. So, we took a tour through the waterways where the one per cent lives. Our guide pointed out two lots side by side, each of which had been sold for a sum well in excess of $10 million. On one lot, the house had been torn down so a tennis court could be built. The man who had bought both properties, our guide told us, was the commissioner of the NBA.
If Stern had a social conscience, he hid it well. That is obviously not the case with Silver. He has stepped up to the plate big time.
This is only one example, but it’s an important one because, thanks to the social media, it’s become so visible.
Racism is still too prevalent in this country. The election of a President who had a black father and white mother, who raised him, has seemingly only acerbated the problems. Republicans in the House and Senate have devoted their efforts to try to stop anything the President is trying to do.
The NBA is a small part of the big picture but a significant one because professional sports are so important in this country. That’s why it was so important when Jason Collins announced that he was gay – and the Brooklyn Nets signed him to a contract. And, why it was so important that Silver took the position he did. Bravo!
WHEN I opened my Sunday Chronicle, it seemed the rush was on to get Oakland teams to follow the Warriors out of town.
Former SF mayor Willie Brown continued his successful efforts to make a fool of himself by writing about the possibility of the Raiders moving into a new stadium in the Hunters Point area. Yeah, and I’m going to find the Fountain of Youth and become 25 again.
That site has been mentioned before as a possibility for a 49ers stadium and been dismissed. So, now the Raiders are going to get a new stadium there?
The first jolt of reality: Who’s going to pay for it? Raiders owner Mark Davis has said his family will contribute $400 million to a new stadium in Oakland. That’s slightly less than one-third of what the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara cost, and costs are rising daily.
So, who would make up the difference? The city of San Francisco? When he was mayor, Gavin Newsom famously didn’t take John York’s phone calls because he knew York would ask the city to contribute money for the building of a new stadium and the city had no money for that. It still doesn’t.
Even if by some miracle the Raiders found a private donor to pay for the stadium, the city would still have to pay for multiple access roads into the site. You know the chances that would happen.
Willie is thrashing around desperately to make it seem that he’s still in the know. He isn’t, and The Chronicle should retire that column.
Then, my good friend John Diaz added to the confusion about the A’s with a suggestion that, because of the anger about negotiations for a new Coliseum lease, it was uncertain where the A’s were going.
No, there isn’t. The A’s aren’t going anywhere. Lew Wolff obviously wants to move them to San Jose but the Giants contract with MLB gives them territorial rights, and they aren’t yielding. Several years ago, commissioner Bud Selig commissioned a former baseball executive to search out possible sites for a major league team. This man told me off the record that his report was that there were no viable sites.
So, the A’s and city and county representatives need to quit the squabbling and work on a plan to go forward.
THE BASEBALL season is a long one for a reason: There are so many ups and downs that it takes a season to sort them out and let the cream rise to the top.
Some trends for the local teams have confirmed previous opinions. For the Giants, that means their starting pitching is suspect. Tim Hudson has been the only consistent starter but with his recent injury history, there’s no guarantee that he’ll last the season. Madison Bumgartner, who was expected to be one of the top pitchers in the league, has been surprisingly inconsistent. Matt Cain has generally pitched well, though his hitting support isn’t always there. Surprise. For some reason, that’s been true of Cain throughout his Giants career. Ryan Vogelsong occasionally pitches well but he’s a bottom of the rotation starter at best. Tim Lincecum is basically a five-inning pitcher as a starter. Brian Sabean, continuing to be very generous with other people’s money, gave Lincecum a two-year, $35 million contract in the offseason. Not the worst decision Sabean has made – the Barry Zito contract dwarfs this – but it’s still a head scratcher.
Still, it would seem that when this contract has expired, Lincecum will either move on or go to the bullpen at a lower rate. He’s a fan favorite but for what he’s done in the past, not now.
The Giants hitting has been up and down, which usually happens with hitters. Ted Williams always claimed that hitting was the hardest feat in sports, though it certainly wasn’t for him.
Michael Morse is doing just what the Giants got him for, hitting monster home runs, and they’ve generally been able to get him out of the game before he messes up in the field. Angel Pagan has hit well at the top of the order and Hunter Pence has bounced back from an early season slump. But, Brandon Belt has fallen into a hole lately, though manager Bruce Bochy still supports him. Pablo Sandoval has picked up some but has not approached the kind of offensive performance of his earlier years. We may already have seen the best of Sandoval.
At this point, it seems the Dodgers may not be as potent as thought earlier. Of course, they’ve been without the injured Clayton Kershaw. That won’t last long; Kershaw is making another start in Double A tonight and will probably be back on the Dodger roster by next week.
At worst, the Giants should be able to finish second in a division that is not a strong one. The Rockies always struggle on the road because playing conditions are so different, the Padres are simply not very good and the Diamondbacks have given up on manager Kirk Gibson.
Given the overall weakness of the division, the Giants should make the playoffs, but they don’t have the starting pitching to advance beyond that.
The A’s hit a speed bump last week when they lost three straight to the Texas Rangers. As I told you, I went to the Wednesday game, which was a dreadful one. I stayed the whole nine innings, hoping in vain to see some offense from the A’s.
They rebounded nicely on Monday and Tuesday in Arlington, Texas, knocking out Yu Darvish in the fourth inning as Sonny Gray pitched a complete game three-hitter, and then hammering Martin Perez, the same pitcher who had thrown a complete game shutout in the game I saw, for eight runs. Frankly, I was less surprised by that than the fact Perez had been so effective at the Coliseum the previous week. Watching the replays on the big TVs finally installed in the press box, it seemed Perez was very hittable. Not that day, though. Baseball is a strange game.
The A’s winning formula remains the same: A deep pitching staff, even after injuries which have knocked out starters, and a platoon system which produces home runs and puts pressure on opposing pitchers.
Two key hitters, Josh Donaldson and Josh Reddick, both of whom are excellent defensive players, have bounced back from early season slumps and are hitting for power again.
Billy Beane’s favorite, Daric Barton, is still on the team, and the fact that Barton has made a couple of good plays lately doesn’t change the fact that he’s dead weight. It seems Beane would catch on when he’s put Barton on waivers and nobody has claimed him. He has no power and he’s not hitting for average, either. Have I left anything out?
The AL West seems to be a two-team race. The Angels still don’t have enough pitching, though their hitting has picked up because a healthy Albert Pujols has recovered his home run stroke. Josh Hamilton is rehabbing from hand surgery and may return ahead of schedule. Which means the Angels will be losing games by a closer margin.
SAN FRANCISCANS remain as provincial as ever. Now, they’re happy that the Warriors are “coming home.” If they really were, they’d be heading for Philadelphia, but there’s another team there. As for San Francisco, they played there 10 years and have played in Oakland for 44. So, which city is their home?
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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