In an extended statement posted to Facebook, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has called on NBA commissioner Adam Silver to impose an indefinite suspension and a hefty fine on Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was allegedly caught on tape making a series of racist comments.
Johnson, a former NBA All-Star who is speaking in an advisory role on behalf of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), said that racism is "still alive and well in our country" and that professional sports should help "bridge racial divides." Asserting that Sterling has "no place in our league" and that his alleged comments "represent the worst of ignorance and intolerance," Johnson called on Silver to strip Sterling of his ownership rights.
"The NBPA has asked Commissioner Silver to impose the most severe sanctions possible under the NBA bylaws," Johnson's statement read. "We may not have the power to force Mr. Sterling to sell his team, but make no mistake, we believe that Mr. Sterling should no longer have the privilege of being an owner of an NBA team. After all, how can we expect any player (the majority of whom are African-American) to want to work for him?
"At a minimum, Mr. Sterling should be suspended indefinitely, banned from games, slapped with the maximum fine possible, and forced to extract himself from basketball operations. He should be required to name someone from his executive team or family to take over all duties related to the Clippers.
"If the NBA takes this type of strong stand on this issue -- and I have every confidence it will -- it will prove to be a defining moment not just for the sport but for the entire nation. It will signal that the league is listening to its players and alum and treating them as valuable partners."
TMZ released audio on Friday 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.
In the four days since the audio was made public, criticism of the alleged remarks has poured in 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 president Chris Paul have all expressed opposition to Sterling in one form or another, 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.
Johnson was instrumental in brokering a series of deals that kept the Sacramento Kings from relocating to Seattle last year.