L.A. Clippers Owner Donald Sterling Banned For Life From NBA
Adam Sliver, who has only been Commissioner of the National Basketball Association for about three months, has imposed the heaviest sanction available against L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling in the wake of the release of tapes containing racist rants from the owner:
Donald Sterling, longtime owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was barred for life from the league and fined $2.5 million by N.B.A Commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday for racist comments captured on an audio tape that Silver said Sterling admitted were his. Silver said Sterling would be barred from any contact with his team or the league and he will urge the league’s board of governors to force Sterling to sell the team.
The fine, Silver said, was the maximum allowed by the league’s constitution.
“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver said. “We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views. They simply have no place in the N.B.A.”
Silver said Sterling admitted the audio tape was of his voice. He said he would “do everything in my power” to see that Sterling is forced to sell the Clippers. “I fully expect to get the support I need to remove him,” Silver said.
Silver’s announcement came at the end of the league’s investigation, which started over the weekend after the audio tape was released on the website TMZ. The ensuing outrage put tremendous pressure on Silver to act decisively. Owners, players and advertisers have already passed judgement on Sterling. Players have staged small on-court protests. Some sponsors and advertisers have suspended or cut ties with the team.
Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said Monday, however, that the league had to tread carefully on owners’ rights.
“What Donald said was wrong,” Cuban told reporters Tuesday. “It was abhorrent. There’s no place for racism in the N.B.A., 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.”
Players continued to stage protests against Sterling, with the Miami Heat mimicking the Clippers’ Sunday protest before their playoff game Monday night by tossing their warm-up gear in the middle of the court and practicing with their shirts inside out. The San Antonio Spurs and the Portland Trail Blazers wore black socks in their most recent games. Golden State Warriors Coach Mark Jackson called for fans to boycott Tuesday’s Game 5 between the Clippers and Warriors.
Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, a former N.B.A. star, called for the league to issue the maximum possible penalty against Sterling. “We’re at a defining moment in the history of the National Basketball Association,” Johnson said.
In order to force Sterling to sell the team, three-quarters of the owners of the remaining NBA teams would need to vote in favor of forcing the sale. Silver didn’t say whether he’d polled the other owners on this possibility, but he did say that he’d talk with several of them and that they supported his decision to ban and fine Sterling. The question now is how the owners will vote, keeping in mind the probability that many of them will at least be thinking about the possibility that this extraordinary tool could be used against them at some point in the future. When you get right down to it, though, the outrage against Sterling’s remarks have been so swift and severe that his complete removal from the league would seem to be in the best interests of the NBA and, in the end, that’s likely what they’ll be most concerned about.
There may not be a quick end to this story, though. Sterling has a reputation in the business world as someone who can be quite litigious in business disputes and he could end up using the courts to drag this out as long as possible. Alternatively, perhaps he’ll just be happy to take the handsome sum he’s likely to get when he sells the team and fade away.
Update: And the Clippers team fully supports the idea of their boss getting banned for life and, probably, being forced to sell the team:
LA Clippers statement on NBA Commissioner banning owner Sterling for life: Wholeheartedly support, embrace decision by NBA & Silver today.
— Sports Biz (@CNBCSportsBiz) April 29, 2014