Donald Sterling controversy a potential distraction for both Clippers and Warriors in Game 5

Stephen Dunn

Sports marketing expert David Spencer - who has worked with Warriors forward David Lee, among others - spoke with Golden State of Mind earlier today about the implications of Donald Sterling's actions from a marketing standpoint and how all the attention on the team could end up being a distraction for both the Clippers and Warriors in tonight's Game 5.

Earlier today, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that he has banned racist L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA for life and will recommend that the NBA's board of governors vote to force him to sell the team.

In addition to Silver needing 3/4 of the ownership to vote on the widely-desired sale, the stubborn Sterling has reportedly said that he's not going to willingly sell the team.

That means this thing is hardly over and will still manage to loom over this game as a potential distraction.

And while the focus has been the effect of this whole ordeal on Clippers players, there might also be reason to believe that it will have an effect on Golden State Warriors players as well during Game 5 at Staples Center.

Marketing expert David Spencer, who told KNBR that he has spoken to both Clippers and Warriors players yesterday and spoke with Golden State of Mind earlier today, says the unique circumstances surrounding Game 5 should be expected to cause a distraction for both teams. The sum total of all of the non-basketball activity surrounding this game to make it a larger-than-sports national event figures to create a completely unfamiliar environment for both teams - while Clippers coach Doc Rivers wondered after Game 4 whether a return home was even a good thing, it's an abnormal environment for the Warriors as well.

"I think it is a distraction - I think it's really a distraction for everybody involved because it is a black eye on the NBA and not just the Clippers," said Spencer, who has worked with Warriors forward David Lee and noted a KNBR interview yesterday that he has spoken to both Clippers and Warriors players. "Everybody's affected by this and it doesn't even stretch to (only) people in the NBA - it stretches to people like you and I and people beyond that. The NBA is such a visible sport these days with digital and social media and its visibility across the planet.

"Sports isn't really just handled anymore or seen just by Americans - it's a game that crosses borders - and I think that it's a distraction to everybody. People are talking about this that are not even directly related to the sports world. So you've gotta say and imagine that not only are the Clippers bothered or distracted by this, but of course the Warriors have been as well and it really goes way beyond that."

With the future of Sterling's ownership of the Clippers still an open question even after Silver's announcement today, there could still be demonstrations outside the arena and some fans choosing to heed the call of Warriors coach Mark Jackson as well as activist Jesse Jackson, television host Keith Olbermann, and others to vote against Sterling with their feet by boycotting the game. Although a boycott really wouldn't hurt a billionaire like Sterling all that much financially, Spencer said in our chat before Silver's ruling that suggested it might still be a worthwhile stand to take from a moral standpoint.

"I think it would make a ceremonial type of impact and I think that would definitely speak volumes - no question about that," Spencer said about the notion of a boycott. "But from a financial impact, the tickets are spoken for, for the most part - there's a secondary market and for the people selling tickets in the secondary market it would impact them, but unfortunately, it wouldn't impact Sterling. And if it were to impact him, the financial repercussions from a day-to-day, game-to-game boycott really wouldn't make for any type of impact at all...I don't think that there's any type of financial impact. This is a guy who paid the largest settlement for discrimination in real estate, he's worth close to $2 billion - making a dent in his pocket is going to be very difficult in the near-run. In the long-run, possibly."

"But from a social and moral responsibility (standpoint), that's where the attention needs to be directed. And because this is an overwhelming and overshadowing social issue I think LeBron said it best: I think there's no room in the NBA or professional sports for Sterling."

To Spencer's point, one league source estimated that revenue derived from game day operations (e.g. concessions, merchandise, parking, etc) is around 2% of total revenue for a team like the Clippers that has a lease agreement with Staples. When you combine that with the NBA's revenue sharing agreement, as described by David Leon Moore of USA Today, a boycott of games - whether they end up with one, two, or more from a deep run in the playoffs - really isn't going to make any sort of financial dent as far as Sterling is concerned.

Where the real financial hit would occur for Sterling is on the sponsorship end. Already we know that sponsors have dropped the Clippers due to the risk of associating themselves with Sterling's comments. Spencer says that there will only be a couple of sponsors remaining for tonight's game to his knowledge.

"Anheuser-Busch left, but Anheuser-Busch is a blanket sponsor of the NBA so they will have a presence at the game tonight that's not a specific L.A. Clippers sponsor," Spencer said when asked about how many sponsors the Clippers have remaining shortly before Silver's announcement today. "And I think that while State Farm has backed out of the deal, they will still have presence in the arena, but they won't be doing full support of the Clippers - I think that because of infrastructure issues with respect to the backboard and the basket, I think they will be present on there, but it's really difficult to say at this point."

Yet ultimately, as Spencer stressed, the social and financial protests of Sterling aren't about draining money from someone with money to spare - it's about whether fans will continue to show their dissatisfaction with his presence in the league despite Silver's announcement and until he actually does divest himself of the Clippers.

In other words, this is still a very fluid situation at least until the NBA's board of governors votes and probably until the the franchise finds new ownership. But with Silver's statement as well as the financial statement that sponsors are making, selling is really the best option for Sterling from a basketball (if he cares to see his franchise succeed), financial, and even moral standpoint.

"In the end, there's going to be nothing - nothing, nothing, nothing - that Donald Sterling can do if he's maintained as the owner that will turn his public perception around," Spencer said. "So with that being said, he needs to step down and relinquish control...and distance himself completely from the team. And, I have to say, as a human being he's probably gotta relinquish ownership."

For more on the series as a whole, check out our Clippers-Warriors NBA playoffs series section.

More on David Spencer: As a Partner and Director of Talent Resources' Sports & International Divisions, David Spencer leads all athlete-driven initiatives with a focus on endorsement deals and international campaigns. After leaving finance to produce content for ABC with illusionist David Blaine, David developed strong connections within the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL and NASCAR. He works closely with renowned athletes and their teams to secure endorsements, appearance opportunities and sponsorship including NBA stars LeBron James, Baron Davis, Kyrie Irving, James Harden and David Lee. An expert at matching brands with top-tier talent, he has been instrumental in facilitating the mainstream crossover of several top athletes across a wide range of sports. With his international background, David enables Talent Resources to expand its reach across industries, borders and cultures.

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