I have been so bursting at the seams to talk about this, but nobody asked my opinion. I waited and watched how the whole thing played out. Now that it has quieted down, this is what I would have done, if I were asked my professional opinion as a TV producer and a media consultant.
Here is what I would have advised Don Sterling:
I think public apologies are powerful, and as I am "Johnny Come Lately" to this conversation, I think an entire opportunity was missed to acknowledge wrong doings on a personal level and a public level.
I understand that it's easy to sit in the audience and say, "This is what I would have done." But public apologies have proven successful. Taking responsibility for our words, thoughts and actions is a personal job and is often seen as a manipulative publicity stunt; however, it immediately shifts the nature of the media conversation from "what was said" to "should we accept the apology" -- a far better media conversation then the former.
Being that the Clippers had a home playoff game in Los Angeles, within several days, I would have worked with the NBA, the Clippers PR Team, and with Don Sterling, and used it as an opportunity to "man-up." To walk out on the court at the beginning of the game, before the National Anthem, and to stand in front of the naysayers, the offended, the hurt, the haters, and the paper cup throwers.
In a well-crafted, and well-intentioned, pre-written speech, I would have loved to have seen Don Sterling, "man up" by apologizing to his wife, to the fans, to the NBA, to his players, and to his country for his most un-American comments.
I think the opportunity to say, "I'm sorry" and "I am wrong" is much easier when it is promptly admitted, then when it becomes cemented as a legacy.
These type of out of date, antiquated racial comments, although made in private, are an embarrassment to Los Angeles, who has a "would like to forget" history of racial moments from Rodney King to the OJ Simpson media circus.
We watched Paula Deen, apologize not once, but many times, including crying all over television saying how sorry she was for words that came back to haunt her years later. Even though for Paula Deen most of her sponsors pulled out, and the Food Network dropped her show -- ta da -- Paula Deen Ventures received between $75 and $100 million from Najafi Cos. (a private investment firm giving her the money), who obviously thinks that 'incident' was just a blip on the screen and that her name, company and reputation can be salvaged.
The day that Don Sterling's reputation was publically ousted, E-Online reported Paula Deen's "comeback continues" in a headline announcing her 20-city live tour. I would call that a reputation re-establishment tour.
We know now that Donald Sterling has a reputation and a past for racist comments, so this is especially not a shock to his inner circle. He settled a lawsuit in 2005 confidentially that accused him of discriminating against bland and Hispanic tenants at properties he owned. He and his wife settled a $2.7 million housing discrimination suit in 2009 of which he and his wife say that just because they settled doesn't mean they were guilty.
Donald Sterling just lost his lifetime achievement award from the NAACP. As part of the forgiveness package, I would have suggested that he set up an anonymous trust to offer scholarships through the NAACP at their discretion.
Others that haven't recovered their reputation so quickly for their comments are Michael Richards, "Kramer" from Seinfeld. His apology seemed to be as off the cuff as the comments that were made.
However, in the end, you cannot ask someone to publically apologize for something that they don't want to apologize for -- so there you have it.