There’s an old saying that sadly too often applies to the culture of sports these days. It goes: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’’
And that explains why Robert Sarver, owner of the NBA Phoenix Suns and WNBA Phoenix Mercury, is sitting out a one-year suspension and is $10 million lighter in his wallet right now.
And it explains why Donald Sterling no longer owns the Los Angeles Clippers and why Daniel Snyder no longer runs the day-to-day operations of the Washington Commanders, and why Jon Gruden no longer coaches the Las Vegas Raiders.
Each of them went over the edge, overdosed on power, and found out that was probably not the very best way to go about their business.
There are critics – the great LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers included – who thought Sarver got off easy after apparently using naughty words at and around his employees and treating the hired hands like lower level human beings.
There were racist slurs and other nasty carrying on, the same kind of behavior that earned Sterling a lifetime ban from the league a few years ago. That’s why James thought Sarver got off easy with just one year out of the action.
Commissioner Adam Silver, in charge of the unpleasant business of punishing people, explained his reasoning by pointing out Sterling conducted “blatant racist conduct directed at a select group of people.’’ Sarver’s behavior, apparently, was less egregious. That’s assuming you can assign different disgust to any and all of it.
Snyder’s team was well known for the sexual shenanigans that went on around the office, enough that it got the Washington Football Team’s owner hauled before Congress for a little soul searching. He does get credit, however, for ditching the racially offensive Redskins nickname and changing the team logo.
Gruden became a little full of himself in an exchange of offensive e-mails that succeeded in getting him fired from the Raiders, who some folks will tell you, majored in offensive behavior long before the coach ever got there.
The lesson learned from all of this is relatively simple. Ownership – or in Gruden’s case broadcast booth and sideline celebrity – do not remove you from behaving like a decent adult. Treat people the way you would like people to treat you and don’t let a little power push you over the edge of decent behavior. Follow that rule and you can stay out of trouble. Abuse it and bad things will follow.