NBA Hits Clippers Owner Sterling With Lifetime Ban, $2.5 Million Fine
By Bill Chappell
The NBA is banning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, league Commissioner Adam Silver announced Tuesday, saying that its investigation has verified Sterling made racist comments in an audio recording that was made public Friday.
Saying that the NBA's investigation included a discussion with Sterling, Silver stated that the views he expressed "are deeply offensive and harmful."
Silver said he was outraged by the remarks; he also apologized to former players and anyone else offended by the sentiments in the recording.
Sterling's punishment also includes a $2.5 million fine, Silver said. The fine is the maximum amount allowed under the NBA's charter, as ESPN reports.
Silver said that he is urging the NBA's board of governors to force a sale of the team, and that his actions announced today have the support of other NBA owners.
Under the ban, Sterling "may not attend any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team," the NBA says. "He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings and participating in any other league activity."
We've updated the top of this post to reflect the news.
Our original post continues:
The league has called the remarks "disturbing and offensive."
Anger and outrage over the recording have built since it was posted online Friday by TMZ, overwhelming the attention the postseason has received. At least two games were marked by player protests: The Clippers wore their warm-up shirts inside-out on Sunday, an act repeated by the Miami Heat at last night's [Monday night] game.
Sterling is accused of criticizing V. Stiviano, his former girlfriend, for "associating with black people" and saying of NBA legend Magic Johnson, "don't bring him to my games," in a recording that goes on for nearly 10 minutes.
If you're catching up, you can read more about the recording in our original post. This is far from the first time Sterling has been accused of racism. As NPR's Gene Demby wrote for the Code Switch blog Monday, "it's not even the ugliest racial controversy he's been at the center of."
The comments sparked calls for the NBA to levy a stiff punishment on Sterling. Here's how Michael McCann, director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire, breaks down the possible punishments for member station KPCC, which we cited Monday:
A fine "may be seen as the weak penalty," McCann says, "because Donald Sterling is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.9 billion."
A suspension "would be a bolder step," McCann says. "It's one that the NBA hasn't taken but it's one that I think many people would find to be justified, especially his own players who are clearly upset by the remarks that he allegedly made."
An expulsion would mean that Sterling "would likely sue the NBA for breach of contract, his franchise agreement and potentially an antitrust claim," McCann says.
Many observers say the NBA would have a hard time wresting control of the Clippers away from Sterling, noting that the franchise is in good financial shape.
As we reported Monday, several Clippers sponsors, including State Farm, Kia Motors, and Mercedes-Benz dealers in California, have pulled back from the team. And Sterling's fellow owners have also voiced their displeasure.
NBA great Michael Jordan, who owns the Charlotte Bobcats, issued a statement about the case, saying that as a former player, he is "completely outraged."
Here's the full statement, as cited by the Charlotte Observer:
"I look at this from two perspectives — as a current owner and a former player. As an owner, I'm obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views. I'm confident that Adam Silver will make a full investigation and take appropriate action quickly.
"As a former player, I'm completely outraged. There is no room in the NBA — or anywhere else — for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level."
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has had his own run-ins with the NBA over its rules that restrict comments about officiating and other league matters, calls the remarks attributed to Sterling "abhorrent." But he also notes that the NBA could set a precedent if it takes a strong stance.
The Dallas Morning News has Cuban's view:
"What Donald said was wrong," Cuban said. "It was abhorrent. There's no place for racism in the NBA, any business I'm associated with, and I don't want to be associated with people who have that position.
"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.
"Again, there's no excuse for his positions. There's no excuse for what he said. There's no excuse for anybody to support racism. There's no place for it in our league, but there's a very, very, very slippery slope.
"If it's about racism and we're ready to kick people out of the league, OK? Then what about homophobia? What about somebody who doesn't like a particular religion. What about somebody who's anti-Semitic? What about a xenophobe?
"In this country, people are allowed to be morons."