There still were the embarrassing episodes, some of which came from Sterling's own testimony. During one deposition, filled with salacious details of Sterling recounting his encounters with a woman whom he paid to have sex, Sterling said something that seems to encompass his philosophy: "And when you are paying for it, you feel you have a right to say everything."
That would account for Sterling's degradation of women -- so evident in the way he speaks to the woman on the recording that led to his downfall -- and his attitude about players and other subordinates, at the very least as detailed in the wrongful-termination lawsuit brought by former general manager Elgin Baylor. At no previous point did the fans call for player boycotts, nor did other owners fill media email inboxes with statements of outrage over Sterling's comments, nor did coaches question whether they wanted to continue to work for him.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is absolutely right to express his concern about a slippery slope now that words can be grounds for revocation of a franchise. What happens when it's not so easy for everyone to jump up and point and yell, "Look at the racist!"? What happens if the discrimination is more subtle and nuanced?
What happens when we're forced to examine our own motives and willingness to sacrifice, when the solution isn't to get rid of someone else but to change our own behavior?
If Silver had not taken such a dramatic step, would you have protested by changing the TV channel in the midst of these incredible playoffs? Would you stop buying NBA jerseys? Would other owners commit to providing truly equal opportunity workplaces for their teams and other businesses?
Silver did the dirty work. It's up to everyone else to clean up after him.