Don’t Fan the Flame – Adam Silver vs. Donald Sterling

It was just a few weeks ago NBA Commissioner Adam Silver dropped the hammer on Donald Sterling. At first, Sterling said he wanted to fight it. More recently, it was said he turned control over to his wife and she would sell the team. Then he decided to sell the team. Now, Donald Sterling has decided to fight the NBA on all fronts. Just a week ago, he was transferring the team to his wife, and they were going to seek a sale. What happened? Something happened.

Perhaps Sterling never intended to go along with the NBA’s plan for him to sell the team. However, it seems to me Sterling pivoted when Silver recently took the position the NBA would essentially foreclose on the franchise by stripping them of their interest in the team (including the 50% owned by Sterling’s wife, Shelly)—and the NBA would sell the team themselves–rather than allowing Shelly Sterling to sell the team. Now, Sterling has dug his heels in, and it’s going to get ugly. If in fact Sterling has hardened his stance because Adam Silver hardened his position:

…We will hear stories of NBA ownership messes (and details) we were never privy to…embarrassing the NBA.

…Sterling will be given the chance to cast himself as a victim and may draw sympathizers over time–because the NBA is far from a righteous prosecutor.

…It’s possible he could win, and if he does, Sterling keeps the team and Silver will be monumentally embarrassed.

…and precedent will be set that may insulate other NBA owners from similar consequences to their behavior.

…This could take years…keeping the public thinking about this instead of the NBA’s core product—basketball—and keeping the Clippers franchise in disarray for at least 5-7 years.

Here’s where I’m going with this: In times of serious conflict, sometimes we need to leave well enough alone.

Sterling needs to sell the team. That’s the objective. Perhaps if Silver had simply set a 24-month deadline for sale of the team – allowing Sterling to carry out the sale himself, it is possible Sterling would have obliged. Yes, it would have been a small concession—but Silver’s doubling down carries extreme risk and it is a decision I can’t imagine David Stern (his predecessor) making. In an ideal world, you want to force the sale of the team without a lengthy court battle and the risk of Sterling winning in court—at least a puncher’s possibility. No matter what happens—the public’s opinion of the NBA can only go down if a trial ensues.

…and it might have been avoided.

I know Adam Silver is a smart guy and has a legion of smart people around him helping him make decisions. So did Rehoboam 🙂 Wisdom is the ability to make tough decisions that need to be made…in ways that are wise. We must be careful how we handle volatile situations. Sometimes, it’s better to give a little along the way than to insist on our own way. Other times, we shouldn’t budge at all. What determines which time is which? Wisdom…and wisdom comes from God.

What do you think? Should Silver play hard ball? What would be the ideal solution?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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