Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is acting as an adviser to the National Basketball Players Association. (Noel Vasquez/Getty Images Sport)
The National Basketball Players Association applauded NBA commissioner Adam Silver's lifetime ban for disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling, but they said Tuesday they will not rest until the Clippers are in new hands.
Silver issued the lifetime ban and a maximum $2.5 million fine to Sterling during a press conference in New York City on Tuesday. Shortly after the conclusion of his remarks, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is acting as an adviser to the NBPA, and NBPA vice president Roger Mason Jr. addressed Silver's verdict and what should come next.
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“We want maximum allowable punishment under the bylaws and constitution and what that equates to for us as players, there must be a change in ownership,” Johnson said.
“As players, we’re very happy with the decision, but we’re not content yet,” Mason added. “We want immediate action. We want a timetable from the owners on when this vote is going to happen. We feel confident that with Adam Silver’s urging, and we’ve heard from a lot of the owners around the league, we think this is something that can be handled quickly.”
TMZ released audio Friday 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 Lakers legend 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.
NBPA president Chris Paul and Johnson previously expressed their opposition to Sterling, and Johnson called for an indefinite suspension and a maximum fine on Monday night.
The Clippers, Heat, Rockets and Blazers have all participated in silent protests against Sterling by wearing their warm-up shirts inside out or donning black socks during their recent playoff games. Mason said Tuesday that more drastic action would have been taken had Silver not laid the hammer down on Silver.
"We will not be discriminated against," Mason said. "I reached out to other players around the league and made it clear that the players were ready to boycott the games if this type of action wasn't something Adam Silver felt was necessary. I'm happy to come here today and say that as players we're very happy with the decision."
Johnson said Silver did the right thing with the severity of the punishment.
"This was also a statement about where we are as a country," Johnson said. "It doesn't matter if you're a professional basketball player worth millions of dollars, or a man or woman who works hard for their family. There will be zero tolerance for institutional racism, no matter how rich or powerful. Let me say how proud I am of the players of this league for standing up for themselves."
"The NBA constitution states this: the commissioner shall be charged with protecting the NBA of the game and preserving public confidence to our fans," Johnson said. "Today, the players believe the commissioner has done his duty. On this day, Adam Silver is not only the owners' commissioner, he is also the players' commissioner. We're proud to call him our commissioner."
The terms of Sterling's punishment amount to a total banishment.
“Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices," Silver said. "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.”
The commissioner also pledged to take steps to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.
“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.”
Moments before Silver imposed the ban, Fox News reported that Sterling said that he will not sell his basketball team.
“I just spoke with Donald Sterling on the telephone just moments ago,” Fox News Contributor Jim Gray reported. “He is unaware of what is going to happen to him. He has not been notified [of his impending punishment by Silver]. He also said he really didn’t want to comment on the record, however the team is not for sale and he will not be selling the team.”
A three-quarters majority vote of the league’s owners is required to force out Sterling. Prior to Wednesday’s press conference, at least 16 NBA owners had issued public statements against Sterling. Other organizations that had remained silent before Tuesday – including the Jazz, Magic, Bulls, Celtics, Knicks, Bucks, Timberwolves, Thunder and Raptors — issued statements of support for Silver following the press conference.
A number of NBA players expressed their support for Silver on Twitter.
"Commissioner Silver, thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league," Heat forward LeBron James wrote. "Great leader!"
"Commissioner Silver... Strong," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "Way to take charge and protect our great league."
The Clippers' organization, independent of Sterling, issued a statement on Tuesday applauding Silver's decision.
“We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today," the statement read. "Now the healing process begins.”
Sterling, who is the NBA's longest-tenured owner, bought the Clippers in 1981 for a reported $12.5 million. Forbes recently valued the franchise at $575 million, however the recent sale of the Bucks for $550 million would seem to indicate the Clippers are worth significantly more than that figure.
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