Adam Silver’s Summer of Discontent

The glowing reviews for National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver for bouncing Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for “racist” remarks made to a woman friend in his home that happened to be caught on some recording device and turned over to a tabloid website and TV show are just that, glowing reviews from sportswriters and sports talk radio show hosts and TV talking heads. Silver is a very smart man and knows that Sterling isn’t the only problem that needs attention. Away from the intense glare of the Sterling exile, which hasn’t happened because Sterling has the right to legal due process and is taking full advantage of that, is a more troublesome problem.

National Basketball Association players have been arrested on various charges since the end of the season. Raymond Felton pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm last week in a Manhattan, New York courtroom in exchange for a sentence of 500 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine stemming from an incident last February.

After Silver deposed of Sterling, it should be rather interesting to see what sort of NBA penalty will be imposed on Felton who will be playing for the Dallas Mavericks in the 2014-15 season. Silver will, presumably, be reviewing the case of Minnesota Timberwolves player Dante Cunningham who was arrested in Minnesota twice in a week in April. Cunningham was taken into custody on “suspicion of terroristic threats,” three days after he was arrested on alleged domestic abuse charges.

Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin was arrested on May 4 in Little Rock, Arkansas on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest following a confrontation at a skating rink.

In June, Memphis Grizzlies forward James Johnson was arrested for domestic assault and accused of hitting and choking his wife at their home.

Cunningham, Goodwin and Johnson have to go through the judicial system before Silver can hand out any punishment.

Silver also has a nonsensical problem if he is true to the Sterling banishment. If image is important and certainly that was chiseled into the conciseness with the Sterling ruling, how can Adam Silver and the NBA’s cable TV partner, Disney’s ESPN, allow Stephen A. Smith anywhere near official NBA TV or radio programs after Smith’s tweeting rampage defending Ray Rice after the National Football League handed Rice a two game suspension for assault his girlfriend in an Atlantic City, New Jersey hotel elevator. Rice had been charged with third-degree aggravated assault. Rice and Janay Palmer was his fiancée initially were charged with simple assault. The Atlantic County prosecutor’s office later dropped the charge against her. Rice enter a program for first-time offenders

Smith is entitled to say or tweet whatever he wants and if ESPN boss John Skipper is fine with the carnival barking personality, then Smith should continue to work for the so-called “family friendly” Walt Disney Company’s ESPN division. But leagues and teams can “suggest” that someone should be removed from league or team branded programming. The conversation between Silver and Skipper involving Smith ought to be rather interesting. Smith should be considered as toxic as Sterling around the NBA logo. Especially when the NBA owns a women’s professional basketball league complete with the NBA’s name incorporated in the brand, it is the Women’s National Basketball Association or WNBA.

Does Silver hold racist talk to a higher standard than sexual assault talk? Do the NBA and WNBA owners want Stephen A. Smith around their TV (or radio) presentations which essentially are a long infomercial for the product?

This has shaped up to be the worst off-season for the NBA since 2003 when then commissioner, David Stern, had all sorts of legal problems confronting his office. In August 2003, the NBA was supposed to make a big splash with the American basketball team that was slated to play in the 2004 Athens Olympics working out in New York

The shadow of the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case in Colorado hung over the league. But Bryant was not the only star in the hot seat. Nine other NBA players were arrested between April 11 and August of 2003 on charges ranging from assault to marijuana possession.

There were plenty of stark reminders at the NBA “coming out party” that all was not well in the NBA, starting with Bryant’s absence. Jason Kidd, who was traded by Phoenix to New Jersey after his Jan. 18, 2001, arrest on a misdemeanor domestic abuse charge for striking his wife, Joumana was on that team. Kidd’s backcourt partner was the Philadelphia 76ers’ Allen Iverson, who always seemed to draw trouble.

The New York Knickerbockers franchise dumped one of their marquee players, Latrell Sprewell in the summer of 2003 as well.

You might remember that Spreewell came to the Knicks after being suspended by the NBA for choking his Golden State Warriors coach, P. J. Carlesimo, during a practice in Oakland. The Warriors fired Sprewell and terminated his $32-million contract. The NBA barred him from playing for a year. But the National Basketball Players Association filed a grievance and an arbitrator, John Feerick, reduced his punishment and ordered the Warriors to rehire him. Shortly thereafter, Golden State traded him to the Knicks.

Feerick’s ruling defanged Stern at the time, which hampered his ability to discipline his employees.
Knicks fans welcomed Sprewell with open arms after they found out he “got game” and were outraged when he left.

New York sports talk show callers were irate that the Knicks picked up Keith Van Horn in 2003 and would have preferred that the Knicks had acquired Glenn Robinson, who moved from Atlanta to Philadelphia as part of the four-team trade. What the callers might or might not have known was that Robinson was unavailable for the first three games of the 2003-04 season because of a domestic assault conviction.

And it was not just players who have had 2003 summertime problems. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was hit with a sexual harassment suit filed by a former employee at his real estate business. She alleged that Sterling made “unwanted and offensive physical contact” with her. The nonprofit Housing Rights Center and a group of tenants who lived in Sterling’s properties filed a federal lawsuit in 2003 against Sterling, accusing him of “numerous discriminatory statements and housing practices,”
The case was dropped after Bryant’s accuser refused to testify in the case. Stern was off the hook. Sterling, of course, remained the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. He settled the 2003 lawsuit in 2005.

This is the summer of Silver’s discontent. How he rules in the cases of Felton and the others who were arrested under his watch and with the Stephen A. Smith rant may speak more of his way of handling business than sending Donald Sterling into exile.

Evan Weiner can be reached at evanjweiner@gmail.com. His e-book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/365489 ) and his e-books, America’s Passion: How a Coal Miner’s Game Became the NFL in the 20th Century, (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/americas-passion-how-coal/id595575002?mt=11 ), From Peach Baskets to Dance Halls and the Not-so-Stern NBA (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/from-peach-baskets-to-dance/id636914196?mt=11 ) and the reissue of the 2005 book, The Business and Politics of Sports (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/business-and-politics-of-sports-evan-weiner/1101715508?ean=2940044505094) and reissue of the 2010 e-book The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/business-politics-sports-selection/id771331977?mt=11 ) are available from e-book distributors globally. 2014 e-book, sports business 2010-14(https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/393652 ). The e-books are available from e-book distributors globally

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