Although he faced extraordinary public opinion to act immediately, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did the right thing by affording Donald Sterling “due process” and fully investigating the tape prior to doling out discipline. One of the hallmarks of American jurisprudence is “innocent until proven guilty,” and it is important that this tenet be applied to not only the courtroom but also to the court of public opinion and the operations of businesses such as the NBA. Sports has seen rushes to justice when, afterwards, the supposed “facts” have proven to be false such as the accusations against the Duke lacrosse team and Richard Jewell. In the Sterling case, it was certainly possible that the voice was not Sterling or that the tape had been doctored. If the tape were fraudulent and Silver had punished Sterling, Silver would not have been able to retract his public indictment of an innocent man. The investigation took a few days, but Silver was still able discipline Sterling and the time lag did not diminish the message of the punishment. Silver showed fidelity to the principles of American jurisprudence as well as to the lessons of the false accusations in the past by waiting until the determination that the statements were real and that Sterling had made them.
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