Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is the latest pro sports owner to be sanctioned by his league. On Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned him for life for making racist comments in a recorded conversation, the first step toward forcing a sale of the club. Here are five prominent examples from the past of owners disciplined by their leagues for infractions far more serious than a fine for complaining about the officiating.
In 1974, baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended the New York Yankees owner for two years after he pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to the re-election campaign of President Richard Nixon. Kuhn reinstated Steinbrenner on March 1, 1976, for good behavior. Then in July 1990, Steinbrenner agreed to an indefinite suspension because of his association with and $40,000 payment to Howard Spira, a known gambler sent to prison for extorting the owner. Steinbrenner was reinstated March 1, 1993.
In 1993, the Cincinnati Reds owner was suspended for one year and fined $25,000 by baseball’s executive council for bringing “disrepute and embarrassment” to the sport with her repeated use of racial and ethnic slurs. The suspension was shortened to eight months for good behavior. In 1996, under pressure by MLB to step aside over her controversial remarks, Schott agreed to give up day-to-day control of the team through the 1998 season. She sold controlling interest in the club in October 1999.
In 1998, the San Francisco 49ers owner pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to report a felony arising from claims that he paid former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards $400,000 in exchange for his help to get a riverboat casino license. DeBartolo avoided a prison sentence by agreeing to testify against Edwards, but the NFL fined him $1 million and suspended him for one year.
In 1977, Kuhn suspended the Atlanta Braves owner for a year after he tampered with San Francisco Giants outfielder Gary Matthews, who was going to become a free agent and then signed a $1,875,000, five-year contract with the Braves. Turner unsuccessfully sued.
In 2000, the Minnesota Timberwolves owner agreed to a season-long suspension by the NBA for his role in a secret deal with former player Joe Smith that violated salary cap rules. Smith had signed a free-agent contract with Minnesota in 1999, along with a secret promise of $86 million over seven years. Taylor has certainly bounced back, though. He’s now chairman of the NBA’s board of governors, which will vote on whether to force Sterling to sell the team.
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