You're up, NBA owners.
Commissioner Adam Silver did the hard part Tuesday, slapping Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban for his vile, racist comments. Silver is the one who, just three months into the job, finally had the courage to stand up to Sterling, who's been thumbing his nose at the NBA since the day he bought the Clippers.
All the owners have to do is follow along and finish the job.
A lifetime ban sounds harsh and, in many ways, it is. Sterling will no longer have a front-row seat – a seat in any row, for that matter – or the quasi-celebrity status in which he took so much pride. He can't heckle his players, or lord his power over his employees. He'll no longer be able to hobnob with other members of the 1 %.
So long as he still owns the Clippers, however, Sterling will continue to get rich off the NBA, its players, its sponsors and its fans. And that's every bit as unacceptable as if Silver had been soft on Sterling and his hateful views. The NBA needs to cut every last tie to Sterling, and the sooner the better.
Fortunately for the owners, Silver made their job easy.
It will take a vote of three-quarters of the Board of Governors, or 23 owners, to force Sterling to sell the Clippers. But aside from whoever represents the Clippers, there's not one owner who would dare risk the flood of bad PR that supporting Sterling would bring.
All the anger and disgust that's been focused on Sterling would be redirected at the owners who appease him. That mass exodus of sponsors that turned the Staples Center into an ad- and revenue-free zone would be repeated in other cities. Players would boycott, and fans would protest.
And unlike the sewer that Sterling dragged the Clippers and the NBA into this week, there would be no quick escape from that mess. For as long as he or she owned the team, that owner would always be known as the one who harbored a racist. No one's worth that nightmare, and certainly not someone as miserable as Sterling.
No wonder Silver sounded so confident the owners would grant his wish and force Sterling out.
"I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him," Silver said.
Sure enough, in quick succession, almost every owner released a statement praising Silver and expressing support for the punishment he'd doled out. Most teams changed their home pages or Twitter avatars to mirror the Clippers' "WE ARE ONE" slogan.
Even Mark Cuban, the NBA's resident renegade, appears to be on board after initially expressing hesitation at the precedent the league could be setting.
"I agree 100% with Commissioner Silvers findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling," Cuban said on Twitter.
Doing what's right isn't always easy. Given Sterling's fondness for litigation, Silver put the NBA at risk for a lengthy court battle by imposing such a harsh punishment. And though he did not throw good friend and mentor David Stern under the bus for turning a blind eye to Sterling's unsavory behavior in the past, the former commissioner still wound up with a few tire marks on his suit.
By making the hard choice, however, Silver left the owners with an easy one: Take away Sterling's team, and bring an end to this sad, sordid chapter.
Now we just need Joey Crawford's ass thrown out of the league. So pissed off about last night.