The NBA announced Saturday that a new CEO will be appointed to lead the Clippers in an attempt to fill the void created by commissioner Adam Silver's lifetime ban of Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was caught on tape making a series of racist remarks.
The new executive, who has not yet been named, will be tasked with "supervising the team's operations," according to a press statement. USA Today Sports reports that longtime Clippers president Andy Roeser will remain with the organization "for now" and that he and the rest of the organization will report to the new boss.
"The best way to ensure the stability of the team during this difficult situation is to move quickly and install a CEO to oversee the Clippers organization," a league spokesman said. "The process of identifying that individual is underway.”
Sterling, 80, has owned the Clippers for 33 years. Last week, 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, including Lakers legend Magic Johnson, to her Instagram account. On Tuesday, Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him from attending NBA games, practices, the Clippers' facilities, and all personnel decisions. Two days later, the NBA's 10-member advisory/finance committee voted unanimously to pursue Silver's plan to oust Sterling and complete an ownership change.
A three-quarters majority vote of the league’s owners — 22 out of the other 29 owners — is required to force out Sterling. Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said he expects unanimous support from the NBA owners to oust Sterling.
Considering how quickly things have moved over the last week, it's no real surprise that the NBA would seek to add some immediate stability while the ownership transfer process runs its course.
ESPNLA.com reported this week that Clippers coach Doc Rivers called a meeting of staff members, who were understandably shaken by Sterling's comments and the franchise's uncertain future.
"It was really hard to see them," Rivers said. "I didn't realize. Ticket people and marketing people, they're sitting there crying and I felt so bad for them. I was thinking, 'My gosh, we've been in this thing as players and as coaches but you forget these are the people that are on the front line.' They work for the organization, too. You just felt so bad for them today. You're sitting there and they were sharing some of the calls they had. They didn't know the story was breaking and when it broke, like we said, there's no playbook for this."
Rivers has not committed to remaining with the Clippers next season, even though he is under contract as both a coach and front-office executive after arriving from the Celtics last summer.
Roeser, who worked for Sterling for years, issued a controversial press release on behalf of Sterling shortly after audio of Sterling's remarks were made public. In that release, Sterling 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 Johnson.
Complicating matters further, Sterling's wife, Shelly, has attended multiple games during the team's first-round series against the Warriors. She has also denied that she is a racist, and Rivers has taken a compassionate approach towards her.
Shelly Sterling issued a statement on Saturday.
“I spoke with Commissioner Adam Silver last week to tell him that I fully supported his recent swift and decisive action," Sterling said. "We also agreed at that time that, as a next step, both the league and the team should work together to find some fresh, accomplished executive leadership for the Clippers. I welcome his active involvement in the search for a person of the utmost character, proven excellence and a commitment to promoting equality and inclusiveness. As a co-owner, I am fully committed to taking the necessary steps to make the Clippers the best team in the NBA. That has been my aspiration ever since 1981."
Still, representatives of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) said at a press conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday that while they are pleased with the term of the punishment handed down by Silver, they still believe Sterling -- and his family members -- must be replaced by a new ownership group.
“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,” said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is acting as an adviser for the NBPA.
“As players, we’re very happy with the decision, but we’re not content yet,” NBPA vice president Roger Mason Jr. said. “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.”
Sterling, who has owned the Clippers for 33 years, has not issued a formal statement about the future of the franchise since Silver handed down the lifetime ban. However, Sterling told a Fox News reporter on Tuesday, moments before Silver’s press conference, that he was not planning to sell the team, which could be worth $1 billion.