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Every time he opens his mouth, Donald Sterling reminds his fellow NBA owners why he has to go.

Now.

Already a pariah for his vile and racist comments, it didn't seem possible the Los Angeles Clippers owner could further damage his image and, by association, that of the NBA. Yet that's exactly what he did in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper that aired Monday, throwing gasoline on a fire the NBA had only just begun to get under control.

Despite his repeated insistence that he's not a racist, everything else Sterling said showed him to be an ignorant and hate-filled person. He trashed Magic Johnson, claiming -- wrongly -- that the Lakers' Hall of Famer has done nothing for the black community.

"Some of the African Americans, they don't want to help anybody," Sterling said.

He felt compelled to mention that V. Stiviano, the woman who taped the conversations that got Sterling in trouble in the first place, was one of "15 Hispanic kids."

And he appeared to be coming dangerously close to another racist rant, his voice rising as he said, "There's no African American -- never mind."

"I'm sorry," Sterling said, composing himself. "They all want to play golf with me. Everybody wants to be with me."

Not really. That's just another of Sterling's pathetic delusions.

The truth is, even if any owners did have sympathy for Sterling, as he claims, it was gone by the time Cooper's show ended. He's a drag on the NBA, and it is only a matter of when, not if, his fellow owners force him to sell.

"I'm a good member who made a mistake, and I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness," Sterling told Cooper. "Am I entitled to one mistake, am I after 35 years? I mean, I love my league, I love my partners. Am I entitled to one mistake?"

No, and not simply because he has a long and documented history of unsavory and offensive behavior.

Whether the NBA wants to admit it, Sterling's punishment is the disciplinary equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. NBA owners are a very wealthy bunch, and they didn't get that way by picking up change off the sidewalk. They have spent their careers analyzing risks and rewards, their every decision driven by the bottom line.

No thanks to Sterling, the Clippers are currently riding a wave of goodwill that could drive their sale price past $1 billion. Celebrities from Oprah to Diddy to Floyd Mayweather Jr. have fallen all over themselves expressing their interest, and the team that was barely an afterthought for much of its existence in L.A. is now Hollywood's hottest ticket.

Even the sponsors are slowly coming back.

Let Sterling or his estranged wife keep even the tiniest piece of the Clippers, however, and the team's stock will plummet faster than Johnny Manziel's on draft day.

Doc Rivers, who deserves coach of the decade honors for holding the Clippers together over the last 2½ weeks, has all but said he's gone if the Sterlings stay. Considering that his players were ready to boycott if Commissioner Adam Silver hadn't punished Donald Sterling, expect them to follow suit if they can.

And forget about finding free agents to take their place; LeBron James said Sunday that players around the league "don't feel like no one in his family should be able to own the team." Same for quality coaches and the front office folks who keep the team afloat on a day-to-day basis.

Before long, the Clippers would be an NBA team in name only.

A few prospective suitors might lurk but, like the last holdouts at a garage sale, they'd only buy if they could get a bargain.

That's just the direct effect. All the scorn and anger that's been heaped on Sterling would eventually spread to the other owners and the league itself, putting a blight on everyone's bottom line.

"I embarrassed the league, I humiliated them," Sterling told Cooper. "I don't know why I did it, it's so terrible."

The only saving grace in this whole fiasco is that there's no longer any possible way Sterling can survive it.

He'll be gone, and not a moment too soon.

 

May 13, 2014

 

 
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