Basketball Great Isiah Thomas: Punish, Then Forgive Sterling

Image: Basketball Great Isiah Thomas: Punish, Then Forgive Sterling

Tuesday, 29 Apr 2014 05:54 PM

By Greg Richter

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The NBA is right to punish Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racial comments caught on an audio recording, basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas says, but society also must be willing to forgive.

"America is a place and sport is a place where we do have punishment, but we also have compassion and we do have time for rehabilitation," Thomas said Tuesday on CNN's "The Lead With Jake Tapper."

"We are a forgiving society, and we are a compassionate society, and I think that should extend to all, not just one."

Thomas himself faced controversy when he once agreed with Dennis Rodman that Larry Bird wouldn't be seen as one of the league's best players if he weren't white. Thomas later said he was joking.

He told Tapper that NBA owners should follow the advice of Commissioner Adam Silver and vote to force Sterling to sell his team.

No one is bigger than the game, Thomas said, and owners should do what's best for the sport.

The controversy, he added, should lead to a bigger discussion on race relations in the United States.

"Sports have always been the backdrop for societal values," he said.

Sterling was fined $2.5 million, the maximum allowed by the NBA, and banned from Clippers operations for life on Tuesday for recorded comments he made asking his mistress not to bring black people to Clippers games or post pictures of herself with them on the Internet.

Sterling has a history of refusing to rent apartments to black and Hispanic tenants, for which he was sued by the federal government.

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