Column: Sterling’s fitting punishment a long time coming

Commentary from sports editor Scott Fontana.

I have to admit, I had my doubts that the NBA would go through with it. To throw the book at Clippers owner Donald Sterling was the right move, but all too often the sports world fails to appropriately punish offenders.

And Sterling, who managed to offend the vast majority of Americans regardless of race, got exactly what was coming: a lifetime ban from the NBA. As a freshly minted octogenarian — Sterling turned 80 on Saturday, the day after TMZ.com released his vile remarks on who his girlfriend should bring to Clippers games — his suspension may not be for too many more years.

It’s just unfortunate that Sterling was allowed to run what Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oprah Winfrey have publicly referred to as a “plantation” atmosphere for as long as he did. Sterling has been a blight on the NBA and Los Angeles for decades. He’s been sued for housing discrimination in Beverly Hills and by former Clippers executive and NBA great Elgin Baylor for age and race discrimination. Former Clippers players such as Baron Davis recently spoke out about abusive treatment at the hands of Sterling.

But there’s no going back and fixing that. The best course of action the NBA was capable of is exactly what new NBA commissioner Adam Silver executed. Silver, who took over the role in February after David Stern’s impressive 30-year tenure ended, has been rightfully and universally lauded for his decision. The new commish has given himself a nationwide identity of which he can be proud. As a human being, I’m certainly proud of him.

Sterling’s no longer welcome in his usual courtside seat at Staples Center or at anything having to do with the team he purchased more than 30 years ago at a bargain. His days as owner appear to be numbered, with Silver stating that he expects a three-quarters vote to force a sale to pass.

The unfortunate result is that Sterling will make an enormous profit from such a sale, but the NBA and American sports as a whole still wins with Sterling out of the picture. I, for one, am pulling for Magic Johnson and his partners to be the ones to buy the Clippers. I love poetic justice.

And in Sterling’s case, what he got from the NBA was justice.

Scott Fontana, amNewYork’s sports editor, can be reached at scott.fontana@am-ny.com

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