The Donald Sterling saga continues to drag on, and keeps the dark cloud hovering over the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA playoffs. It's a situation that likely is not going to be resolved any time soon as Sterling loves nothing more than a legal fight.
What Sterling said is disgusting and terrible, there is no question about it. But the league has banished him and is attempting to force the sale of his team because he expressed his thoughts in what he believed to be a private setting. Disgusting and outrageously racist thoughts, to be sure, but still his private thoughts. They are invoking the morals clause of the contracts he's signed as an owner in the league to justify the attempt to force a sale. But in looking at their position critically and with logic, it's a slippery slope they are attempting to navigate by trying to jerk away control of his team for really, what are his privately held views. Certainly, the Clippers organization is as racially diverse as any team in the league.
The Sterling drama is going to drag out, there is little question. But there seems to be an imbalance in how the penalties are being applied. For as disgusting as Sterling's attitude and comments are, there are athletes across professional sports who do things just as bad, if not worse, and get off with a light slap on the wrist – if that.
Let's look at a very partial list of some pro athletes who, like Sterling, should be banned from their sports...
7 Michael Vick
It almost seems like picking the low hanging fruit to include Michael Vick on this list – but the fact remains that he shouldn't be allowed to participate in professional sports after his very serious crimes. After pleading guilty in 2007 to operating an illegal, multi-state dogfighting ring for several years, Vick was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison.
Almost the minute he emerged from his incarceration, the Philadelphia Eagles were there to sign him to a contract. He has since earned more than $100 million dollars in NFL salary, and has enjoyed a rehabilitation of his once sullied image. And because he can still light up a football field, some people seem to have forgotten that Vick was one of the guys who hurt dogs for profit.
If that's not a violation of a contractual morals clause, we don't know what is. Yes, he served his time and “paid his debt to society.” However, playing in the NFL is not a right, and Vick should never have been allowed back in the game.
6 Dante Cunningham
Dante Cunningham was never a star, but was expected to fill an important role when he was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers with the 33rd overall pick in 2009. However, he was traded away and as a member of the Charlotte Bobcats, Cunningham was pulled over by police for speeding and reckless driving. However, police then discovered a loaded BB gun and some marijuana in his car. Okay, not that serious, and can be chalked up to stupid indiscretions of youth, right? Well, in 2014 as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cunningham stepped up his game when he was arrested and charged with domestic assault after slamming his girlfriend up against the wall and choking her for 15-20 seconds. What's worse is that just 3 days later, Cunningham was arrested again for violating his restraining order and charged with making “terroristic threats” after sending his girlfriend threatening text messages.
For a league that markets itself so heavily to youth, Cunningham is a terrible role model who apparently thinks he's above the morals clause in his contract.
5 Aldon Smith
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, having totaled more than 40 sacks in his first three seasons as a professional, is a beast on the football field. He gives defensive coordinators nightmares as they try to game plan for him, and he gives opposing quarterbacks, who aren't smart enough to avoid him, plenty of bumps and bruises. The trouble with Smith though, is that he is apparently not very smart, and doesn't learn from his mistakes.
In January 2012, after a brilliant rookie season for the 49ers in which he posted 14 sacks, Smith was arrested and charged with a DUI in Miami, Florida. Later that same year, in September 2013, Smith was involved in a single-car accident in San Jose. He was then arrested and booked on suspicion of DUI, as well as possession of marijuana. He avoided any significant penalties by voluntarily entering a rehab facility. In October 2013, Smith was charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon. The charges stemmed from an incident in 2012, in which he suffered stab wounds during a fight at a party at his residence – a party at which two people were shot. In April 2014, after being selected for secondary screening before boarding a flight at LAX, Smith became belligerent and uncooperative with TSA officers. He was arrested after making a bomb threat in their presence – something that would likely land most of us at Guantanamo Bay.
Yet he remains on the active roster for San Francisco and will likely be allowed to continue playing despite violating the morals clause in his contract a hundred different ways.
4 Riley Cooper
A fifth round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010, Cooper has managed to carve out a niche for himself and excel in Philly's offense. He did so well that he has been rewarded with a 5 year, $25 million dollar contract extension this offseason.
However, like Sterling, Cooper apparently has some issues with diversity and racial sensitivity. In July 2013, Cooper was denied backstage access at a Kenny Chesney concert and was caught on video angrily hurling the “N” word at the bouncers preventing him from going backstage.
His punishment? A undisclosed fine and some counseling. Mothers slap their toddlers on the wrist harder than that.
3 Adam “Pacman” Jones
Drafted 6th overall in 2005, Pacman Jones was an absolute monster of a talent at cornerback. His speed and ball hawking skills struck fear into opposing quarterbacks as well as receivers. If you threw his way, you could expect to see that ball going back the other way. However, Pacman is as much of a fool as he is a talented corner. His indiscretions, violence, and troubles with the law started long before the Tennessee Titans used that first round pick on him – yet they decided to pick him anyway.
His first arrest came just a year after being drafted, in February 2006, and despite having possession charged dismissed, he was still charged with both felony and misdemeanor counts of obstruction of justice. He was subsequently arrested a number of times over the ensuing seasons, on charges ranging from disorderly conduct and public intoxication to more serious charges of felony coercion, battery, and threatening somebody's life. His many and varied off the field legal problems led the NFL to suspend Pacman for the entire 2007 season as well as part of the 2008 season as well.
And yet, here we are in 2014, and Pacman is still enjoying life as an NFL cornerback despite an incredibly checkered, violent, and criminal background.
2 Jason Kidd
Former point guard Jason Kidd was one hell of a player. He was intense, incredibly cerebral and knew how to dissect an opposing defense. He was fiery, passionate, and knew how to get the most out of himself and his teammates. It's an attitude and persona he's now trying to impress upon his team as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. After getting off to a slow start to the season, and an amazing amount of turmoil, Kidd guided the Nets to the playoffs, and a first round win over the Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately, their season came to an end with a second round thumping at the hands of the Miami Heat. Fortunately for Brooklyn, Kidd seems to be growing in his role as a head coach and brighter days appear to be on the horizon.
The question is, should Kidd be the one in that role? If you applied the Sterling Scale to Kidd's situation, the answer would have to be a resounding no. In 2001, after four years of marriage to his wife Joumana, Kidd was arrested and charged with domestic abuse. He entered a plea of guilty to the charges, and was sentenced to attend six months of anger management classes – which seems to be a simultaneous delicate slap on the wrist for him and a huge slap in the face to survivors of domestic abuse everywhere. The couple split in 2007, with Kidd citing “extreme cruelty” during their relationship, and Joumana alleging even further abuse, claiming that Kidd, “broke her rib,” and “damaged her hearing by slamming her head into the console of a car.”
Kidd was a great player, and looks to be turning out to be a good coach, but if the NBA can't tolerate a racist in the owner's box, how can they tolerate a serial domestic abuser on the sidelines?
1 Ray Rice
Along with being one hell of an athlete, Ray Rice always seemed to be one of the NFL's good guys. He usually kept a low profile, did a lot of charity work, and by most accounts, was an incredibly nice person. However, that image has taken a huge hit subsequent to his arrest and a very disturbing video being posted by TMZ.
While at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, Rice got into an altercation with his fiancee, Janay Palmer. Witnesses to the event have said that Rice punched his fiancee so hard that he knocked her out – something that has been denied through the media. However, the disturbing video posted by TMZ shows Rice dragging an unconscious woman out of an elevator and callously dumping her on the floor. A Baltimore news station also obtained a copy of the summons issued to Rice, in which police said that he, “struck his fiancee with his hand, rendering her unconscious.”
After marrying his fiancee and attending some therapy, it looks like Rice will wiggle his way out of legal trouble as easily as he does defenses. But the question remains, how can the league justify keeping a man who knocks his fiancee out cold, a member of the NFL?