Between Jim Isray’s impending legal problems, and his current physical and mental ones, he is facing a serious string of problems, not the least of which is what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is going to do with him once the dust clears. On the other end of the spectrum, Donald Sterling is being labelled a racist, and is facing mounting and seemingly increasing pressure against him. Now, a lot of people have drug problems and commit petty crimes as they engage in it; and a lot of people are racist, but most of those people don’t own North American sports teams.
Jim Isray is the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, a franchise with a long and storied history, albeit much of it taking place in Baltimore. Donald Sterling was already unpopular as the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, but this recent rant has people up in arms in a way that has never happened before.
But wait: it has. When I suggested to a fellow sports fan, and a friend of mine, that the NBA suspend Sterling, meaning that while he would continue to legally own the team, he would not have any authority in operations, and not be permitted to attend games, meetings, and anything else related to the team. More than one person suggested that the NFL do the same to Isray. This can happen because Major League Baseball already did it, a precedent that Roger Goodell and NBA Commissioner Adam Silva can look to.
George Steinbrenner was a jerk his whole life. Even as a New York Yankees fan, I have to admit that while Steinbrenner was beloved by fans because of his devotion to the Yankees, and in particular to the Yankees winning, but outside of his family life, which I am not able nor willing to make any assessment of, he came off publicly as a rough neck obsessed with winning. However, when he sought ‘leverage’ against former Yankee Dave Winfield, and paid serious money to get it, Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent suspended him from making any decisions or any involvement in day-to-day operations for the Yankees, a decision that Steinbrenner observed. After Vincent’s ouster a few years later, Steinbrenner was reinstated by de facto Commissioner Bud Belig, seemingly a changed man. He never engaged in any foul play again.
I suppose that both Isray (at least today) and Sterling can be compared to Steinbrenner in that they love being an owner, have made public decisions regarding personnel, payroll, and other things that came directly from them, and in a sense are defined by that role. For George Steinbrenner, being suspended and alienated from baseball and Yankees was a sharp lesson that he never forgot, and it’s a lesson both Isray and Sterling need.
I know that some people are probably thinking “that’s baseball, we’re talking about football and basketball.” However, once you reach the ownership level, comparisons are fair, especially since all ownership boards work in essentially the same manner; also, we’re not talking about players or even executives, it’s above that, and above the actual sport, which makes it fair game.
Jim Isray has already conceded, albeit temporarily, control of the Colts to his daughter; Commissioner Goodell needs to maintain this policy and formally suspend him indefinitely. I’m not saying it’s fair, because it’s not, but I’m saying that it’s the right punishment, and I daresay that even Isray wouldn’t fight it, because he at least is smart enough to know how to manage his public image… somewhat.
Donald Sterling, on the other hand, is a fighter who will resist whatever Adam Silva throws at him. His problem, aside from a serious tarnish on his already tarnished image, is that Silva is a relatively new commissioner, and even worse, this is Silva’s first crisis, meaning Silva will not want to show he’s weak in the face of even an ownership crisis. However, racist remarks, particularly against blacks and latinos (and people of mixed descent while we’re at it) are not smart, especially when a majority of NBA players, and a substantial portion of the sport’s fanbase qualify as such. The NBA needs him out, even if only for image purposes.
Both men need to be out, and soon.