Commissioner Adam Silver barely waited until Anderson Cooper had signed off when he issued an apology for the owner his predecessor should have run out of the NBA years ago.
That’s one more real apology than Donald Sterling has given, and now he has even more to say he’s sorry about. It hardly seems possible, but Sterling’s bizarre comments about Magic Johnson in the CNN interview with Cooper were almost as despicable as the racist ramblings that prompted Silver to kick him out of the league to begin with.
Just what Sterling thought he would gain from going on national television Monday is anyone’s guess. About all Sterling accomplished was to tighten the noose even more.
His wife chalked it up to dementia, which seems as good an explanation as any. Real shame, too, because what a loving couple they seemed to be, sitting courtside with his mistress.
If anyone was on the fence about Sterling before, they’ve hopped off now. If his true character wasn’t revealed in the racist comments he made in conversations recorded by his girlfriend, it was in his interview with Cooper.
He blamed the media for being haters, and said Cooper was probably more of a racist than he is. He also claimed his players love him, something that will surely come as a bit of a surprise in the locker room.
“They know I’m not a racist – and I’m not a racist,” Sterling said in one of his more coherent moments.
He wasn’t so coherent when talking about Johnson, one of the black people he criticized his girlfriend for hanging out with.
“He’s got AIDS!” Sterling blurted out at one point.
Actually Johnson doesn’t, but that’s just one more thing Sterling got wrong. He’s an old man with old ideas, with no one around who dares to tell him no. His attempt at public rehabilitation was such a train wreck you have to wonder if Sterling is listening to anyone.
The best thing for Sterling now is to simply disappear and let his money try and buy him some happiness. He needs to understand that his legacy is now effectively sealed and no amount of apologizing or charitable good works will change it.
Unfortunately, people like Sterling don’t usually go quietly. His wife has already signaled she intends to fight to keep her 50 percent of the team, and Sterling could keep NBA lawyers employed for years should he decide to dig in his heels and try to keep his half.
It should have never come to this. Sterling should have been bounced from the league a long time ago, but for some reason former commissioner David Stern and Sterling’s fellow owners decided to overlook earlier questionable behavior, including a ruling that found Sterling discriminated against black tenants.
They knew he was a bad apple, and if they didn’t, it’s because they didn’t read his sworn testimony in the face of federal charges of civil rights violations. They apparently weren’t paying attention when former Lakers great Elgin Baylor sued Sterling for race and age discrimination, saying the owner had a “plantation mentality” and wanted a team of “poor black boys from the South playing for a white coach.”
They had to be paying attention Monday night for an interview that was as uncomfortable to watch as most of the Clippers teams Sterling had over the years. Silver was certainly paying attention, apologizing to Johnson for what was said about him while vowing to continue to move as quickly as possible to get Sterling out.
So far, Silver has made all the right moves. He came down hard and fast in banning Sterling from the league, and on Monday installed a CEO to run the team while things get sorted out. But he still needs some cooperation from Sterling and his wife or the fate of the team could be tied up in the courts for a long time.
Sterling will have to make that decision, which by itself is troubling. His past record indicates he does not shy away from a fight, and judging by his combative stance with Cooper he may not back away from this one.
For now, though, all we can do is hope he simply shuts up.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://twitter.com/timdahlberg