The fluid line between competition and entertainment just got a bit more blurred.

NBA Commissioner David Stern hit the San Antonio Spurs with a fine of a quarter million dollars because their coach, Greg Popovich, arguably the third best coach in the history of the NBA, chose to rest some of his players for a nationally televised game at, and against the Miami Heat. (A game that the Spurs almost won regardless of their self-depleted lineup.)

“The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that was the team’s only regular-season visit to Miami,” Stern said in a statement released by the NBA. “The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans.”

The phrase “disservice to the league and our fans” is murky at best. And is further complicated by the enigmatic opening sentence in Stern’s statement (omitted from the quote above): “The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case.”

A gobbledygook sentence to say the least, as my elementary school teacher would point out. Although the word “dictated” seems more than a bit telling.

David Stern, like all commissioners entrusted with the management our major professional sports leagues, is hired by the owners, and it is the interests of the owners he serves, first and foremost, if not exclusively. As such, this fine seems to have little to do with anything other than the television ratings for the national TNT broadcast, and the corresponding revenue that the league splits amongst its owners.

The sponsors are always right, in the eyes of the owners’ commissioner.