Gail Sideman Publicity


For More Information Contact:     Gail Sideman

Social media accelerated Sterling, Silver NBA case

Last Saturday, audio leaked and exposed common and fringe NBA fans to what many knew to be a history of racial bias from Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling.

By Monday afternoon, just two days later, there were nearly 1 million negative tweets about Sterling posted, according to ESPN’s sports business reporter, Darren Rovell.

Many suggested that Sterling got a pass from the NBA, media and public when he was charged with racial discrimination in the mid-2000s. People said that anyone that knows the NBA knew what Sterling was all about.

Did they?

My answer is two-pronged and each part originates with media. First of all, media has exploded. The 24/7-news cycle is now entrenched in our lives. During the last several years, social media joined traditional media to make sure we don’t miss a moment of anything.

During NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s press conference to discuss the league’s next moves April 29, I did my best to follow Twitter, but it was impossible to keep up. I can only think of two or three times that happened, and one of them was when my eyes were introduced to the frantic speed of Tweetdeck a few years ago. Everyone from media on-site to cubicle generals weighed in on what they watched and heard from Silver and in most cases, with passionate editorial.

If you watched NBA broadcasts from Saturday until the NBAonTNT completed its coverage day early this morning, you know that Twitter shares helped round out show content.

From the time that the Sterling audio became public, reaction flooded streams of social media and it continued nearly non-stop for four days. While much of it was shared audio and coaches’ and players’ reactions, others were emotionally infused comments from Joe and Suzie Public.

When some who knew about Sterling’s sordid views as far back as 2006 wondered in 140 characters why no one paid attention then, I did the math. Social media was in its infancy then. After all, those of us that use the medium as a source for information and engagement know that today, any hint of vile behavior by a public figure will be shared in minutes. That Sterling wasn’t found guilty in courtrooms years ago also lowered the volume of coverage, and as a result, the owner’s racial rants were kept under wraps from a judgmental public.

In social media, bad news travels fast and salacious news treks at warped speeds. In this case, many of us learned there, that sponsors were pulling support of anything with Sterling’s name. He became morning water cooler fodder in a matter of hours to many beyond the sports fan scope. I would argue that the Sterling story erupted almost as quickly if not faster than Tiger Woods’ fire hydrant meeting in 2009.

While I don’t know if the NBA was driven to act quickly and decisively because of social media pressure, I would not be surprised to learn that it played a significant role, along with threats of boycotts other demonstrations. Association playoffs were in the midst of one of its most exciting stretches in history, yet for four days, Sterling’s racially explicit rants, including the reemergence of nearly 10-year-old accounts, dominated media. Silver and other NBA owners, in addition to players and coaches, knew that if the man remained in power, it would trickle down to other teams and affect league business.

Did pressure via Twitter, in particular, push the commissioner to act expeditiously? The NBA banned Sterling, a team owner for 33 years, for LIFE just 72 hours after the initial audio was leaked. What do you think?


(Copyright, Gail Sideman, PUBLISIDE)

Share on:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Categories