The NBA playoffs are in full swing.
A few seasons ago, the NBA asked “Where will amazing happen this year?”
The league was talking about on-the-court action.
This year, amazing off-the-court behavior of LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling is grabbing headlines.
Forget the racist remarks (if you can). The lesson for all of us is that when your true character is revealed, there will be consequences. Think of character this way:
The positive consequences of a person’s good character may take years to be noticed: the kind word of a teacher, the tough love of a coach, the mentoring of a senior colleague at work. I know plenty of hard-working leaders, CEOs, presidents and owners who chuckle at the thought of “overnight success.” They’ve been doing the right thing for years.
Likewise, the negative consequences of a person of questionable character may take years to play out.
In Sterling’s case, his behavior was well known but the NBA chose to ignore it rather than engage in a lawsuit. When Sterling’s behavior was revealed on a larger platform, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held Sterling accountable for his actions on a short-term basis, barring him from attending games played by the team he owns.
Sterling has been judged in the court of public opinion as being a two-faced guy who employs talented African Americans to whom he shows little decency and even less common courtesy.
The long-term negative consequences of Sterling’s behavior may take years to play out. Can the NBA legally force Sterling to sell? What will become of Sterling’s legacy? Does he care? When you’re that rich and that insensitive, is there anything that anyone can do to or for you that truly matters?
In organizations, employees — including owners and senior leaders — who show no regard for company values poison the culture for those who do. Time will tell.