Now that the dust has settled on NBA commissioner Adam Silver's life-long ban of Donald Sterling, it's becoming clear just how far players were willing to go in their stance against the racism espoused by the disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner.
The verdict: outright boycott.
Following Silver's announcement, NBPA vice president Roger Mason Jr. indicated to reporters in Los Angeles that players were prepared to sit out Tuesday night's Round 1 games if they were unsatisfied with the punishment levied by the league office.
"I heard from our players and all of our players felt like boycotting the games tonight," Mason said, per ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi. "We're talking about all NBA players. We're talking about the playoff games tonight."
The boycott would have affected not just the game between the Clippers and Golden State Warriors, but also the Game 5 battles between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, as well as the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. Mason said player representatives from all 30 NBA teams had weighed in and decided this was the best course of action.
News that **every** playoff NBA team was prepared to boycott games tonight shows tremendous power of social solidarity at right leverage pt.— Richard Yeselson (@yeselson) April 30, 2014
Silver, in just his third month as NBA commissioner, handed down the unprecedented ban at a news conference in New York City. The resolution was swift, and to many, just, with Silver's presser coming only three days after TMZ posted a recording of Sterling disparaging African-Americans and other races in a conversation with his then-girlfriend V. Stiviano.
The argument between Sterling and Stiviano stemmed from an Instagram picture she posted featuring her, a friend and Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson. Further recordings leaked by Deadspin's Kyle Wagner featured Sterling using a disdainful and racially charged tone in regard to Clippers players and requesting Stiviano not fraternize with African-Americans in public.
"You can sleep with (black people)," the recording said. "You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that...and not to bring them to my games."
After meeting with Sterling and authenticating the recordings, Silver acted with the harshest penalties allowed by the NBA's constitution. He banned Sterling from having any connection with the Clippers, from attending Board of Governors meetings and fined him $2.5 million—the maximum financial penalty allowable.
Silver also said he will work with the league's owners to muster the three-fourths vote necessary to force Sterling to sell the team.
"I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners I need to remove him," Silver told reporters.
Speaking after Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who had helped advise the players in this matter, Mason seemed to convey a sense of relief from the players. Sterling's long history of racial discrimination has been well-publicized, and he consistently skirted disciplinary action.
Mason said the players lobbied for Sterling to receive the harshest possible punishment, though he acknowledged the difference between Tuesday's ruling and actual resolution (via Markazi):
I reached out to other players around the league and made it clear the players were ready to boycott the games if this type of action was not something that Adam Silver felt was necessary. We're happy with the decision but we're not content yet. We want immediate action. We want a timetable from the owners as far as when this vote is going to happen.
Sterling, a notoriously litigious sort, could choose to sue the NBA, its owners or a combination of the two in an attempt to keep the Clippers. Fox News' Jim Gray spoke with Sterling on Tuesday, and he indicated the team is not for sale. It is worth noting, however, Gray's conversation with Sterling happened prior to Silver's announcement.
The NBA's constitution, which was made public this afternoon, allows the league commissioner to act within the "best interest of the Association," per Article 24(l).
Further articles go on to explain the three-fourths vote necessary to expel Sterling from the league's ownership and explain that Silver has the right to suspend anyone with autonomy who has "been guilty of conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the Association."
NBA owners are largely expected to vote to force Sterling to sell. While Silver did not have an exact itinerary in place at the time of his press conference, Mason indicated the players' next course of action may be to force the league office's hand to vote expediently.
"The players haven't set a timetable but the message has been clear," Mason said (via Markazi). "My phone has been blowing off the hook. We want an immediate vote on the issue. Immediate. We're not quite satisfied because we want it done ASAP."
Despite Mason's pleas, we could be a long way away from final resolution. Sterling's decision whether to sue the league will likely be a determining factor. If he is able to get a judge to grant a stay on his ban or even overturn Silver's ruling, this case could drag on for months.
But, in the meantime, at least there will be basketball.