They say that crime doesn’t pay and Donald Steward learned that racism in the NBA doesn’t pay either. Today NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Steward $2.5 million plus banned him from the NBA for life for his racist rants on tape about blacks. He will now have a lifetime, of what’s left of his, to ponder what went wrong. Just when I think we as a country are going backwards in terms of racism, the rare moment occurs when we get it right. And today Commissioner Silver got it right by making the courageous move to ban Stewart for life. None of the league owners openly supported Stewart. And everyone from President Obama to Snoop Dog had something to say about the racist remarks made on April 9.
The lessons to be learned from NBA Commissioner is that swift, harsh and costly sanctions matter when it comes to racism. Often in America, we say nothing about racist remarks or talk quietly in our own perspective corners. Stewart’s remarks were so outright outlandish that they left practically no one willing to stand up for him. You know it’s bad when the other owners didn’t say a word in support of him.
While racism has no place in this country or the world for that matter, we sometimes seem to become accustomed to hearing negative racist remarks being made today about minorities, affirmative action, voting rights, civil rights and a host of other issues affecting blacks and Hispanics. But Commissioner Adam Silver denounced Stewart’s remarks and countered what Attorney General Eric Holder labels as a nation of “cowards” for failing to have the hard discussions on race. Silver not only held the hard discussion in his press conference, he dealt the harsh sanction.
No NBA owner has ever been banned for life. And only one NBA owner has been sanctioned. Doing the right thing takes courage. Silver was only in his position for two months before this incident raised its ugly head. No one could really fault him if he had just suspended Stewart for a lengthy time and fined him. It’s hard to buck history. Saying that he will ask the NBA Board of Governors to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, shows the extent to which Silver reveals a no tolerance policy on racism in the NBA.
By banning Stewart for life, Silver sets the tone for other organizations to have the courage to follow the same course when confronted with such obvious blatant racism. And Stewart did not learn anything from his prior incidents of legal entanglements involving racism and lawsuits. In 2009, he settled the largest housing discrimination suit brought by the Justice Department for his failure to rent apartments to blacks and Hispanics. And 5 years before, in 2003, he settled another case brought by a non-profit organization for the same reason for $5 million. Although, Silver stated he only relied on the comments made in relation to the NBA, these acts could not have been erased from his memory.
There are troubling aspects to the Stewart incident which involve the NAACP. Troubling is the fact that the NAACP gave him 1 Lifetime Achievement Award and was about to award him another one in 2014. Just as much as Stewart had a slave or plantation mentality in regards to his black players, the NAACP needs to adjust its policies and mentality on awarding persons who give money but their prior acts show a history of discrimination and racism. Having to pay out the largest housing discrimination award in 2009 brought by the Justice Department should not be qualifications for a lifetime achievement award or two by the NAACP. One should be known by their actions and not by their money. In the future, I hope the NAACP will re-think how they make awards. That’s their lesson to learn.
We have not seen the last of Donald Stewart. He does not intend to fade quietly in the sun. So there will be more to follow. But today, the good guys got a win. Thank you Commissioner Silver.