- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life from the NBA and fined $2.5 million as a result of racist comments he admitted to making that recently surfaced, league commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday.

Sterling may not attend any games or practices and may not participate in any business or personnel decisions involving the team or the league, said Silver, who also said he will do everything he can to get the league’s board of governors to strip Sterling of his ownership stake in the team.

Comments by Sterling on a tape recording that surfaced recently instruct a woman, V. Stiviano, not to bring black people to Clippers games or include them on her social media account, among other things.


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“The views expressed by Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful; that they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage,” Silver said. “This has been a painful moment for all members of the NBA family.”

The $2.5 million fine is “the maximum amount allowed under the NBA constitution,” according to Silver, which he said will be donated to anti-discrimination efforts.

Silver said Tuesday the league’s investigation into the recording was complete and that Sterling admitted to Silver that it was his voice on the tape.


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The commissioner said he will do everything in his power to try to force Sterling to give up ownership of the team, which he purchased in 1981. Three-quarters of the league’s owners must approve of such a move.

“I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him,” Silver said.

The Washington Wizards’ ownership group, led by Ted Leonsis, released a statement early Tuesday evening praising the decision.

“Monumental Sports & Entertainment has a diverse ownership group, and we respect and value that diversity,” the statement read. “Our group applauds the swift, strict actions and recommendations set forth today by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Commissioner Silver is taking a strong stance, but all of us need to play a role as we strive to eliminate discrimination and intolerance.”

Wizards coach Randy Wittman echoed those sentiments prior to his team’s playoff game in Chicago on Tuesday night.

“Forget about if it’s the NBA,” Wittman said. “There’s no place for that in society today, and I think the commissioner took a stance that he was sending a message — one that should have been sent. I think now is the time to let things happen, the due process, and now is the time to let things heal a little bit. … I was pleased with what I saw today.”

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban earlier called Sterling’s alleged remarks “abhorrent,” but warned of a potential slippery slope in attempting to police what team owners can and cannot say.

“There’s no place for racism in the NBA, any business I’m associated with,” Cuban said. “But at the same time, that’s a decision I make. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope.”

Cuban, however, wrote on Twitter after the announcement: “I agree 100% with Commissioner Silvers findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling.”

Shortly after the announcement, the Clippers‘ official website redirected to an all-black page that featured only a team logo and the words “WE ARE ONE” in white lettering.

The team also released the following statement: “We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today. Now the healing process begins.”

Players responded by praising Silver’s decision. Sacramento Mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson, who the National Basketball Players Association tapped to serve as an adviser after the initial recording surfaced last week, said it was “a defining moment in history.”

“I hope that every bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so can you,” he said.

The fight over ousting Sterling could get ugly, however; sportscaster Jim Gray told Fox News Tuesday just prior to Silver’s announcement that the Clippers owner said the “team is not for sale and he will not be selling the team.”

Sterling joins an infamous list of team owners who have been disciplined by their respective leagues for their words or actions.

Former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was forced out of Major League Baseball during the 1990s over disparaging remarks she made about gays, blacks, and Jews.

Then-New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was suspended by MLB for two years for making illegal contributions to President Nixon’s presidential campaign, a sentence that was later bumped down to 15 months. Steinbrenner was later banned for “life” in 1990 after it was discovered that he paid $40,000 to have someone dig up dirt on outfielder Dave Winfield, but he was reinstated before the 1993 season.

Sterling, the longest-tenured NBA team owner, has a history of run-ins with league management. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern fined him $25 million for illegally moving the team from San Diego in 1984 — a fine that was eventually bumped down to $6 million after Mr. Sterling sued the league for $100 million.

Sterling also paid a $2.725 million settlement after being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009 over housing discrimination issues. He was sued by NBA legend and former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor for a “pervasive and ongoing racist attitude” in his business negotiations, but a jury decided in Sterling’s favor in 2011.

In meting out the punishment, Silver said they did not take into account the Clippers owner’s past behavior but that “when the board ultimately considers his overall fitness to be an owner in the NBA, they will take into account a lifetime of behavior.”

“I can’t speak to past actions other than to say that when specific evidence was brought to the NBA, we acted,” Silver said.

People from President Obama to Michael Jordan to LeBron James have condemned the remarks and sponsors have backed away from the franchise in the wake of the incident, leading to an outpouring of support Tuesday for Silver’s move.

Among those weighing in after the decision was Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who tweeted: “Congrats to the @NBA & Commissioner Silver showing great leadership.”

Zac Boyer contributed to this report