As the news of an apparent trade sending Chris Paul from the league-owned New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers sets in, you sure don't hear about any outraged NBA owners grousing to commissioner David Stern. Last week, when it became apparent that the Hornets were sending the All-Star point guard to the Los Angeles Lakers, a number of owners reportedly raised their hackles, with the Cleveland Cavaliers' Dan Gilbert sending Stern a 300-word missive whinier than a two-year-old out of candy.
When Stern vetoed the deal, he first suggested "basketball reasons" as the impetus, and later adjusted that into an explanation that the Hornets are more valuable with Paul on the roster. Should Stern allow this trade to go through, both rationales will be exposed as lies: the package involved in the Lakers' would have kept the Hornets more competitive over at least the next three seasons than the Clippers' deal will, and, obviously the league will have traded CP3 despite Stern's concern about the value of the franchise.
Stern didn't kill the Lakers deal because of basketball reasons or a concern with the Hornets franchise's value. He did it because letting the Lakers acquired another young superstar on the day the 2011 lockout ended was untenable. Too many owners were too furious, and he was too unwilling to stand up for Jerry Buss' right to make an aggressive basketball trade.
Buss got screwed -- the failed trade led to Lamar Odom demanding a move, so the Lakers handed him to the Dallas Mavericks -- and the beneficiary is Donald T. Sterling, longtime owner of the Clippers and, by all accounts, a really awful person.
How awful? Sterling, who made a large portion of his fortune in real estate, is the proud owner of the largest federal racial-discrimination housing lawsuit settlement in American history -- he paid $3 million in 2009 to settle a number of charges of willful mistreatment of black and Latino tenants filed by federal attorneys. Jon Weinbach has reported that from 2003 to 2009, Sterling has paid a total of $8 million to settle various housing discrimination lawsuits out of court. Court filings had Sterling employees say the billionaire didn't want Latino tenants and said that black renters "smell and attract vermin." (Remember, Sterling settled these cases out of court.)
How bad is Sterling's history? From Weinbach's 2009 story on the Clippers owner:
"If you're a black athlete, how can you play for this guy?" said [NBA legend/labor leader Oscar] Robertson, referring to Sterling. "It's on the stars and the players' association to say something about this - the owners will always protect one of their own."
And here we are, with the owners and their leader, Stern, making a series of decisions that benefit Sterling.
Here's the grossest part: CP3 has some power here on account of his ability to decline his player option for 2012-13 and leave whatever teams acquires him as a free agent in July. That's why players like him, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony make their intentions known with regards to which teams they'll re-sign with -- it allows for a mutually beneficial break-up, insomuch as a break-up between a team and a talent like Paul can ever be mutually beneficial. By trading Paul to the Clippers, a landing spot the point guard certainly wouldn't pick for himself (no offense to Blake Griffin), Stern puts CP3 in the position of signing to play for Sterling long-term, or giving up $25 million to flee.
Stern has refused to hold owners accountable as he's done for players and coaches. One of those players -- who just happens to be on the players' union's executive committee, for what it's worth -- is now being consigned to play for the most vile, unchecked of those owners, or take a $25 million haircut. How's that for fair?
Of course, Stern wouldn't be in the position to play God with a superstar's future if he didn't help out another vile owner, one named George Shinn. Shinn, a devout Christian who wore it like a halo as the founding owner of the Charlotte Hornets, got himself embroiled in a highly publicized sexual assault case in the late '90s, and admitted to extramarital affairs. (Lest you think he didn't drag the Hornets through the mud, one of the alleged victims was a Hornets cheerleader.) He later tried to bully Charlotte into a new arena and skipped town as fans revolted against his revolting presence.
After Oklahoma City hosted the Hornets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Shinn tried to file for relocation to OKC just as Clay Bennett was preparing to move the Seattle Sonics down there. (This despite New Orleans spending huge coin to get the arena and neighborhood back in working shape.) In New Orleans, Shinn took out enough debt against the Hornets that he eventually found himself on the brink of insolvency. Luckily, Stern was there to bail him out, sending him on his way with $300 million, more than anyone would argue the franchise is worth.
When Stern spent $300 million on that new toy, he promised to let the basketball people run the show. He plainly said on a conference call discussing the league takeover that if the team's management recommended a trade or signing, that the league office would be approving it.
That wasn't the case with the Lakers trade. And because Stern bailed out Shinn, because Stern stuck his nose into the Hornets' basketball decisions to prevent backlash from the other owners, because Stern stood up against concentrated power and the rich getting richer, Donald T. Sterling benefits.
Seems fair, right?
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