OK, folks, its tinfoil hat time. Right now, folks are assuming that somebody out to get Clippers owner Donald Sterling was the source of the leaked audio in which Sterling said a whole bunch of stupid racist stuff--to his (part black) mistress (or ex-mistress) with whom he is now having difficulties. Popular theory, which she denies, is that the mistress leaked the recording.
But what if it was Donald himself?
No actual evidence for this, of course, but like any good conspiracy theory, circumstantial evidence abounds.
- A few years ago, the NBA paid George Shinn, former owner of the New Orleans Pelicans (nee Hornets)--who was accused of raping somebod, $300 million to go away. The league owned and ran the Pellies for a couple years until recently selling them off. At the time of the sale, the then-Hornets were treading water--with Chris Paul and a bunch of guys from the Y. After the sale, the great Chris Paul Saga happens, and the Hornets suck. One #1 draft pick later, they are back on their way to respectability.
- It may be the case--the NBA bylaws are top secret, so we mortals don't know--that the NBA commish has far less power to discipline owners, particularly for actions outside the scope of basketball. We do know that T-Wolves owner Glen Taylor got suspended for a year for Joe-Smith-gate, but that was a clear violation of league rules and the CBA. But Shinn got bought out, rather than suspended, and Sterling (and Knicks owner James Dolan) embarass the NBA on a regular basis, but squat is done. In MLB, OTOH, the commish has far greater powers to discipline owners--Marge Schott got forced out for being a racist, George Steinbrenner and Frank McCourt were forced out for embarassing premier franchises. Steinbrenner got suspended several times before he finally kicked the bucket (and during the last suspension, the Yankees actually won a bunch of World Series)
- The Milwaukee Bucks--the worst team in the league last season, and one which is a complete and utter train wreck at the moment (Greek freaks notwithstanding), just sold for $550M, nearly twice what New Orleans sold for.
- Many people consider Sterling an idiot--but he does have a well-deserved reputation for being a ruthless and cunning businessman. For a long time, he made money running the Clippers by essentially having a minimal payroll (and sucking) but making money of TV deals and revenue-sharing. And he's also proven quite good at using the court system for his advantage.
- The leaked dialogue sounds almost too ridiculous to be an actual conversation--particularly the part about its OK if his mistress sleeps with black men, but not OK to socialize with them publicly.
- As others have pointed out--Sterling employed Elgin Baylor for a long time, despite his dubious qualities as GM. He had no issue with hiring Doc Rivers to be his coach. If nothing else, he has no issues with professional relations with black men when it suits him.
- One recent estimate of the Clippers value is about $1 billion.
I'm sure that Adam Silver--regardless of whether this speculation is true or not--has been in contact with Sterling, and that Sterling isn't going to go away nicely. It may be possible that by making himself toxic, Sterling may place the league in a position where they have to get rid of him--and the only way to do so will be to buy him out.
Of course, I could be wrong about this. Silver might be able to suspend him (or force him to sell) under current league rules. It might be possible that this might lead the other 29 owners to give the league more power, if the stench grows to big. And this might be, as often speculated, a case of someone trying to get Sterling.
But the idea that Sterling leaked the audio himself, to force the NBA to buy him out, is at least entertaining and plausible enough to consider.