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NBA commissioner Adam Silver has banned L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers or the NBA.
Sterling has also been fined $2.5 million, the maximum allowed by the NBA constitution, which will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts. Silver also said he would try to ensure that the Clippers are sold.
“I will urge the board of governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team and will do everything in my power to ensure that that happens,” Silver said at a Tuesday press conference in New York. “This has been a painful moment for all members of the NBA family.”
Sterling has come under fire since audio surfaced Friday night of him allegedly telling girlfriend V. Stiviano not to publicly associate with black people, including Magic Johnson, and not to bring them to Clippers games.
Silver said that the NBA’s investigation determined that the man whose voice is heard on the recording released Friday, as well as a second recording from the same conversation that was released Sunday, is indeed Sterling.
“I am personally distraught,” the NBA commissioner said as he opened his remarks. Silver said the views expressed by Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful, adding that the fact that they came from an NBA owner “only heightens the damage and personal outrage.”
Sterling’s views “simply have no place in the NBA,” Silver added.
Silver recalled that when he first heard the audio of Sterling’s racist rant, he “was shocked. I was hoping somehow that it was fraudulent or had been doctored and wasn’t indeed Donald Sterling. I’ve known Donald for over 20 years, so I suspected it was his voice.”
In order for Sterling to be removed as an owner, three-quarters of the NBA owners have to vote to remove him, Silver explained. The process to force the sale of the team will begin immediately, the NBA commissioner said, adding that the league would likely use a standing committee.
Since audio of Sterling’s rant surfaced, players, team owners and Hollywood stars have condemned Sterling, with some, like Johnson, vowing never to go to another Clippers game.
Silver apologized to NBA legends and pioneers like Johnson who were hurt by Sterling’s remarks.
With respect to rumors that Magic Johnson could become the new owner of the Clippers if the team is sold, Silver merely said that Johnson is “always welcome as an owner in this league,” calling him “a close friend of the NBA family.”
Silver said he had just decided Tuesday morning on Sterling’s punishment but explained that he had spoken with Clippers star and National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul, coach Doc Rivers and NBPA chairman Kevin Johnson several times before announcing his decision.
Silver also expressed his support for the Clippers and their fans.
“My message to the Clippers and the fans in this league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach, any one player,” he said. “This institution has been around for a long time and it will stand for a long time. And I have complete confidence in Doc Rivers, and the basketball management of that club and [its] players deserve [the fans’] support. They’ve just been through an incredibly difficult incident in their lives.”
The NBA began investigating Sterling after audio of his racist rant emerged, with Silver promising a swift decision. Silver said Tuesday that the investigation, which included interviewing Sterling, has been concluded.
When asked whether the owner had denied or expressed remorse for the remarks he made on the recording, Silver said Sterling had not expressed those views to him directly.
Although there have been previous rumors regarding Sterling’s racist attitudes and lawsuits against him, Silver said those past incidents didn’t affect the league’s decision to ban Sterling, but they could affect the vote to sell the team.
“When the board considers Sterling’s overall fitness to be an owner in the NBA, they will take into account a lifetime of behavior,” Silver said.
The NBPA previously said it wanted Sterling banned from all playoff games this season and for the league to levy the maximum punishment possible against him. Silver also said he spoke to several owners and that he has their full support for his decision.
The National Basketball Retired Players Association also issued a statement of support regarding Silver’s decision.
“Today the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver took action that speaks loud and clear in the face of racism and bigotry — hatred and prejudice will not be tolerated,” the organization said. “Donald Sterling’s revolting words and sickening attitude toward African-Americans deeply hurt not only the basketball community, but also society at large. Mr. Sterling’s behavior is appalling and unacceptable and we commend the commissioner for taking a strong and appropriate stand.”
ESPN NBA commentators Mike Tirico and Jeff Van Gundy immediately praised Silver’s decision on SportsCenter, with Van Gundy saying that he would like to see how each and every team owner votes on the decision to make Sterling sell the team. “Leadership is lonely and he did one heck of a job,” Tirico said of Silver.
Several of the Clippers’ sponsors have ended or suspended their relationships with the team following Sterling’s comments, but Silver urged them to judge the NBA by its response and hoped they would keep doing business with the Clippers.
Shortly after the commissioner’s press conference concluded, Kia Motors, one of the companies that pulled its sponsorship of the team, released a statement supporting Silver’s decision and saying that it looked forward to resuming its relationship with the franchise.
“As an official partner of the NBA, Kia Motors America appreciates and wholeheartedly endorses Commissioner Silver’s decisive action related to the offensive remarks allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling,” the statement read. “We stand with the commissioner, the league, the players and the fans in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views. We look forward to a positive resolution and continuing our relationships within the NBA community, including our league and team sponsorships and our personal ties to [Clippers forward] Blake Griffin.”
Silver said he was also hopeful that the NBA and the Clippers’ reputations would not be damaged by this scandal, but that he understood people’s outrage. “This will take some time and appropriate healing will be necessary,” he said.
The Clippers are set to take on the Golden State Warriors at the Staples Center Tuesday night in Game 5 of the team’s first-round playoff series.
On Tuesday, the team’s website was updated to simply say “We Are One” (see below).
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