DALLAS - LeBron James is not wrong for ripping the NBA for the cushy punishment handed down to Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, the subject of an investigation that establishes him as a racist and misogynistic pig.
But it should be recognized that the league - wrong though they may be - has its reasons for going soft on Sarver.
Three of them, in fact.
Sarver, it was determined this week, has a nasty habit of engaging in hostile, racially insensitive and inappropriate behavior. In his role atop the Suns and the WNBA's Mercury, he often used "the N-word'' and "engaged in instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees, made many sex-related comments in the workplace, made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women, and on several occasions engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees."
From James of the Los Angeles Lakers on Twitter.: "(I) read through the Sarver stories a few times now. ... Our league definitely got this wrong. I don't need to explain why. ... There is no place in this league for that kind of behavior.
"I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn't right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don't matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this aint it."
And from another prominent player figure, Chris Paul (via Twitter), who happens to play for Sarver's Suns: "I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This conduct especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated. ... Atrocious behavior.''
So what was the NBA thinking in assessing only a "Billionaire Hand-Slap''? We'll go with three things:
1) There is not a "smoking gun'' in this case as there was with the 2014 "life-time ban'' of then-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. The vile Sterling was stupid enough to allow himself to utter his sexist and racist remarks on tape.
Said NBA commissioner Adam Silver, per NBA.com: "This case is very different and it's not that one was captured on tape and the other isn't. 'Indefensible' is not strong enough -- it's beyond the pale in every possible way -- but it was a whole different context than what we saw in that earlier case."
Silver is being disingenuous in trying to conjure up some "different context'' framework. The behavior is the behavior. We're quite certain Suns/Mercury employees who have been subject to his abusive actions care little about "context.''
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2) From a strictly-business angle (again, one the victims care nothing about), we'll bet the NBA opted to not force out Sarver because unlike the "captured-on-tape'' Sterling case, here, Sarver can fight back. Lawsuit upon lawsuit upon lawsuit, the two sides dragging one another through the muck. ...
Creating headlines that the NBA does not want. So, a "greater-good'' position unfolds.
3) Finally, there is the Dan Snyder Conundrum. The NFL Washington Commanders owner has lost lots of powerful friends over the years for misbehavior not only of a sexual nature, but also of (allegedly) a financial nature in a way that might be damaging his 31 NFL partners.
So why don't those partners go on the attack and oust Snyder? Because doing so would prompt him to squeal about every single "misbehavior'' he can recall about those same 31 partners.
Did another NFL owner every say something racist? Act inappropriately with a woman? Do something shady with money? The fraternity would prefer to keep those things private. So they keep Snyder in the fraternity.
And so it is with the NBA. Push Sarver too hard ... and he pushes back.
LeBron and company, though, might take another position worth noting: Maybe, it should be argued, any owner who approaches the level of a Sterling, a Sarver or a Snyder should be exposed - because that would actually be the ultimate "greater good.''
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