He may be banned, but Donald Sterling still wins

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Tuesday Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life and fined $2.5 million, the maximum fine amount allowed by the league. Silver also said he would do everything in his power to try to force Sterling to sell the franchise.

But even in punishment, no matter how severe it appears, Sterling still wins.

Forbes estimates the Clippers value at $575 million. Sterling purchased the team for a reported $12 million. Forced to sell the team and make at least $500 million in profits?

Not a bad return on investment.

Silver’s decision to ban Sterling for life was the right one. It’s the kind of move that will endear him to players and fans forever. It places him, in 2014 at least, on the right side of history — no matter how troubling and sad the Sterling situation is.

Silver should be applauded for his decision to exercise the broad power afforded to him as league commissioner. This shouldn’t be a viewed as a victory for civil rights, however.

That victory was lost a while ago — amidst lawsuits, settlements and deplorable behavior Sterling displayed for years that went unchecked. Will Sterling be forced to sell the team for $12 million?

Don’t count on it.

The lifetime ban is really a “just go away forever and don’t come back” plea. Silver did not address the league’s inaction regarding Sterling’s checkered past.

The lawsuits, the court filings and word of mouth stories from players and management condemning Sterling’s behavior just weren’t enough.

Sterling is just the latest “I’m not a racist” example of why even Silver’s announcement today feels so empty and distracting.

These stories galvanize the public and attract unlimited civil rights-related cliches. But Sterling is the latest — not the last — version of how bigotry can be beneficial. 

NBC News’ Ron Allen on the importance of Tuesday’s big announcement:

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