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The NBA's owners are a varied bunch, and obviously good at many tasks, including running a business and making money. They also have their weaknesses. For instance, as we are learning, they are terrible on deadline.

We were 48 hours into the Donald Sterling Affair when the NBA finally announced that it would hold a news conference today to discuss the latest reprehensible words of the serial racist who has owned the Los Angeles Clippers for 33 years.

That's right, we're all going to wait another day for the league to presumably announce something regarding a matter that has been as cut and dried as any major controversy we've seen in sports over the past several years.

All eyes will be on the league's new commissioner, Adam Silver, in the fervent hope that he will give us those answers. But we're focused on the wrong person.

It's the owners who should be leading the charge, holding the news conference, flying into action. They are the ones who should be meeting now -- yesterday would have been even better -- to not only suspend and fine Sterling, but also to strip him of his ownership, to kick him out of their midst for good.

They've let this go on long enough, allowing a league that long ago became the model of racial diversity throughout sports to be held hostage by one rich, 80-year-old racist. They stood by, gazing toward the new commissioner, as Sterling hijacked a wonderful weekend of playoff basketball, forcing millions of us to go down a path that most thought we had long since walked for a final time.

In a nutshell, this exploding controversy comes down to this: Where are the owners? They are Silver's bosses, not the other way around. They are the only people with the real power to get rid of Sterling, which is the only honorable option that remains in this dreadful situation.

Where is their outrage, if not at their colleague, then at least over the massive public-relations nightmare he has caused for their businesses? When business owners hear that sponsors are bailing and employees are talking about boycotting, they usually get a move on and fix the problem as fast as possible. Yes, a number of owners have issued statements condemning the comments, but we need action.

So what's going on here? To be sure, it's not easy to throw an owner out of a league. There are lawyers. There is paperwork. There are hurt feelings. Perhaps there is even concern among the owners about setting a precedent.

It took Major League Baseball more than six years to get rid of the racist and anti-Semitic Marge Schott, but that was in the 1990s, when everything took more time. These days, the Ozzie-and-Harriet approach doesn't exactly work in our 15-minute news cycle.

Look at it this way: When Silver, speaking on behalf of the owners, announces whatever he's going to announce, he will be the last sports-loving person on the planet to speak his or her mind on this topic. It's never an optimal position for a league to be the last to chime in, especially when it's the league's problem in the first place.

So I'm trying to think of what's taking so long. Are the owners still hung up on confirming that is Sterling on the recordings? Don't we know by now? Couldn't Silver, or any owner, get Sterling on the phone and demand an answer?

Sterling has apologized "to anyone who might have been hurt" by his comments, which, by the way, is the ultimate mealy-mouthed apology. His family has apologized as well. If it's not him, why are he and they apologizing?

This delay in taking action is mystifying. Why would a league that figured out long ago how to deal with racial issues want to twist in the wind for more than two days over this mess? All that the other owners need to do is picture what the NBA would look like if it opens the 2014-15 season next fall with Donald Sterling as owner of the Clippers. It's not hard to visualize the anger, the protests, the boycotts, the terrible ill will.

Sterling's peers should get rid of him because he's completely out of step with everything they supposedly stand for. But if that's not reason enough, there's always this one: He has become very bad for business.

 

April 29, 2014

 

 
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