Adam Silver (left) issued a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine to Clippers
owner Donald Sterling. (Getty Images/2)
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has imposed a lifetime ban and a maximum $2.5 million fine on Clippers owner Donald Sterling for making racist comments in a taped conversation.
After promising Saturday to grant "due process" to Sterling and to investigate the authenticity of the audio, Silver announced the punishment at a news conference in New York on Tuesday.
"Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA," Silver said. "Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers facility. He may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings or participating in any other league activity."
Silver also pledged to take steps to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, a move that would require approval of three-quarters of the league's owners.
"I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force the sale of the team," Silver said. "I will do everything in my power to ensure that that happens. ... I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners."
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TMZ on Friday released audio of a conversation in which Sterling can be heard scolding V. Stiviano, his girlfriend, for bringing African-Americans to Clippers games and for posting photos of herself and African-Americans, including Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson, to her Instagram account.
Silver said the NBA was able to authenticate that it was Sterling's voice on the tape and that Sterling acknowledged that it was his voice during the investigation. In a statement issued Saturday, Clippers president Andy Roeser had questioned the legitimacy of the recording.
"The central findings of the investigation are that the man whose voice is heard on the recording, and on a second recording from the same conversation that was released on Sunday, is Mr. Sterling, and that the hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling," Silver said. "The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage. Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic league."
Silver apologized on behalf of the NBA for Sterling's comments.
"I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and caused current and former players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league," Silver said. "To them, and pioneers of the game like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Sweetwater Clifton, the great Bill Russell and particularly Magic Johnson, I apologize."
Silver said the $2.5 million fine was the "maximum amount allowed under the NBA constitution." The funds will be donated to organizations that promote tolerance.
NBA players and owners were among those who reacted quickly to Silver's ruling.
"Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league!! Great leader!!" LeBron James tweeted.
Magic praised Silver for his "great leadership" in disciplining Sterling.
"Former and current NBA players are very happy and satisfied with Commissioner Sterling's ruling," Johnson tweeted.
Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement that "we will support [Silver's] recommendation to press Mr. Sterling to relinquish his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise."
Tweeted Mavericks owner Mark Cuban: "I agree 100% with Commissioner Silver's findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling."
Before Tuesday's press conference, at least 16 NBA owners had issued public statements against Sterling.
Late Monday night, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, speaking as an adviser for the National Basketball Players Association, called on Silver to suspend Sterling and assess the maximum fine allowed.
President Barack Obama, NBA legends Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA stars James and Kobe Bryant and NBPA president Chris Paul have all expressed their opposition to Sterling. The Clippers, Heat, Rockets and Trail Blazers all participated in silent protests against Sterling by wearing their warm-up shirts inside out or donning black socks during their recent playoff games. Multiple companies announced Monday that they would suspend their corporate sponsorship agreements with the Clippers. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he won’t necessarily return next season, even though he is under contract. Even Sterling’s wife, Rochelle, distanced herself from the comments.
The Clippers will host the Warriors in Game 5 on Tuesday night at Staples Center. The first-round series is tied 2-2.
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