Much has been written and said about Donald Sterling’s ban from basketball, his $2,5 million fine and the NBA’s insistence that he sell his team. After weeks of legal maneuvering, it is all but a done deal that the team will be sold to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.
Donald Sterling is the most hated man in America, according to some polls. He is despised for what he said about African-Americans and rightfully so. In the light of a boycott by the NBA Players Assn. the punishment came swift and harsh. But is that his real punishment?
Before this fiasco, Donald Sterling was hardly a household name, certainly not outside of Los Angeles. But those of us who live in Los Angeles know has name because he has spent millions of dollars giving to a wide range of charities to buy personal goodwill. Further, he created and placed constant advertisement in the Los Angeles Times and in other media touting his benevolence. To Sterling, his reputation was everything. He wanted everybody to know that he was a good, charitable and wonderful person, and for that he was willing to pay dearly. If he wasn’t honored, he would arrange to honor himself. If he wasn’t publicly thanked by a charity, he would arrange to be thanked, even if paid for the ads himself.
But now that the saga seems to be coming to an end. Sterling and his wife will be $2 billion richer, but at the cost of what he valued most — his reputation. All the millions of dollars and effort over the years to convince the public of his greatness has vanished into thin air. He has gone from benefactor to villain in a few short weeks.
There is nothing that Donald Sterling can now buy with his $2 billion that he couldn’t buy before. But there is no amount of money that will allow him to buy back his reputation.
That is gone forever.