When NBA commissioner Adam Silver holds a Tuesday press conference to address the controversy surrounding Clippers owner Donald Sterling, he will do so with more than half of the league's owners having made on-the-record comments expressing dissatisfaction with the alleged racist remarks made by Sterling.
In the four days since TMZ released audio of a conversation in which Sterling can allegedly be heard scolding V. Stiviano, his girlfriend, for bringing African-Americans to Clippers games and for posting photos of herself and African-Americans to her Instagram account, at least 16 NBA owners have made public statements rebuking the comments.
It goes without saying that there has been plenty of criticism of Sterling's alleged remarks from all sides. United States president Barack Obama, NBA legends Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal, NBA stars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, and NBPA representatives Chris Paul and Kevin Johnson have all expressed their opposition to Sterling, and the Clippers, Heat, Rockets and 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, and coach Doc Rivers said that he won't necessarily return to the club next season, even though he is under contract. Even Sterling's wife, Rochelle, distanced herself from the comments.
The reaction from Sterling's colleagues, though, is notable because it is so unusual. Rarely do NBA owners make negative public statements about their fellow owners, and the sheer volume of the statements directed towards one owner is unprecedented in recent years.
Although at least 16 owners made statements, their positions do vary somewhat. Multiple owners -- including Bobcats owner Michael Jordan and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander -- asserted that Sterling should no longer be allowed to own a team. Others simply called for action, while still others placed their faith in Silver's judgement.
It is not yet clear if and/or how Silver plans to punish Sterling, but a suspension and a sizable fine have both been mentioned as possibilities. Reading the statements from the 16 owners side-by-side, the only reasonable conclusion is that Silver possesses a strong mandate to punish Sterling as severely as he deems appropriate.
Sterling released his own statement, through Clippers president Andy Roeser, in which he refused to say whether the voice on the tape was his and questioned the tape's legitimacy and Stiviano's motives. He also said the statements on the tape did not reflect his beliefs and he apologized to Magic Johnson.
The following is a round-up of public statements made by owners in response to Sterling's alleged comments.
Leslie Alexander, Rockets (via the Houston Chronicle): “I thought that there’s got to be a way to disrupt [Sterling] from owning the team. I gave [Silver] the sword to deal with this. I said, ‘Let the players become free agents.’ ... This kind of behavior can’t be allowed in the NBA by owners, players or anybody. This guy has no place in the family of the NBA. Whatever it takes, we have to make sure this kind of event never happens again.”
Paul Allen, Blazers: "The kind of statements attributed to Clippers owner Donald Sterling, if true, are abhorrent, and not acceptable for the owner of an NBA franchise or anyone in professional sports. We at the Trail Blazers reject any and all such sentiments, and believe NBA leadership should take swift and impactful action in this case."
Micky Arison, Heat (via the Sun-Sentinel): "The comments reported by TMZ were offensive, appalling and very sad. The NBA is investigating and we will refrain from commenting further during the investigation."
Jeanie Buss, Lakers: "The comments and sentiments expressed on the tape are reprehensible and disturbing, and certainly are the opposite of how the Lakers feel about the league’s players and fans. I have full confidence that Adam Silver and the NBA will handle this situation appropriately."
Mark Cuban, Mavericks (via Dallas Morning News): "I think what he said was abhorrent. I think whatever sanctions are available to Adam, I trust him to take advantage of them and operate under the best interest of the NBA. It’s not my decision to make at this stage and I don’t want to be the one to make the decision. ... Yeah, whatever the maximum fine is, they can fine him. I don’t know what the other options are beyond that. That’s something Adam will decide and he’ll make that decision and I’ll support him."
Dan Gilbert, Cavaliers: "It is shocking that anyone could hold the kind of offensive and feeble minded views that are being attributed allegedly to the Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. The diverse staff members of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise are unified in encouraging Commissioner Silver and the NBA to respond with swift and appropriate action consistent with a strong zero tolerance approach to this type of reprehensible behavior."
Tom Gores, Pistons (via the Detroit Free Press): "We trust commissioner Adam Silver to handle this matter swiftly and properly, but let me state without reservation: There is no place for prejudice or intolerance in our league, or anywhere else. That’s not a debatable point. It’s a first principle.”
Joshua Harris, Sixers: "Without question, discrimination in any form is unacceptable and has no place in the National Basketball Association or anywhere else in society. The comments were hurtful and outrageous, and in no way reflect the values and beliefs of myself, our ownership group or the Philadelphia 76ers organization. I am confident that Commissioner Silver will undertake a thorough and thoughtful investigation into the matter."
Peter Holt, Spurs (via the San Antonio Express-News): “I don’t know the context, but from what I’ve heard it sounds bad and it isn’t like this is the first go-around for him. ... They’ve got a great team and the problem with it for him, in my opinion — forget the NBA — is that it takes away from the success of the team and the focus on the team, which is unfortunate.”
Michael Jordan, Bobcats: "I look at this from two perspectives -- as a current owner and as a former player. As an owner, I'm obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views. I'm confident that Adam Silver will make a full investigation and take appropriate action quickly.
"As a former player, I'm completely outraged. There is no room in the NBA -- or anywhere else -- for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level."
Joe Lacob, Warriors (via the San Jose Mercury News): "Clearly inappropriate. It's very sad that we have to all go through this. Hopefully we can get through this and resolve the issues and put it behind us. But clearly very inappropriate behavior. It's just something that I think no matter who you are, racism doesn't belong period, in any way, doesn't matter, black, white, whatever color. Inappropriate.
Ted Leonsis, Wizards (via CBS DC): "As I have stated, there should be zero tolerance for hatemongering. Hate speech demonstrates an ignorance that is unacceptable, and I implore all of us to help eliminate any form of discrimination. I have full confidence that Commissioner Silver will conduct a thorough investigation and act accordingly upon his findings.”
Bruce Levenson, Hawks: "The alleged comments made by Donald Sterling are ignorant, offensive and very disturbing and have no place in our society. We will wait to see how the investigation evolves before further comment."
Vivek Ranadive, Kings: "If TMZ recording is true, we must have zero tolerance. Fully support [commissioner] Silver."
Robert Sarver, Suns (via the Arizona Republic): "I would rather not be partners with somebody who has the views that were expressed on those tapes. This viewpoint should be one that is shared by both players and owners in our league. At the end of the day, we're in this business together. ... A big part of what the NBA is about is promoting diversity, tolerance and respect for all people."Herb Simon, Pacers