L.A. Clippers Owner Banned From NBA For Life, Fined $2.5M

(CNN) – The NBA’s commissioner came down hard Tuesday on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, ordering him out of his team’s business and pushing to force him to sell over racist remarks that caused a firestorm since becoming public days ago.

Adam Silver detailed Sterling’s punishment of a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine — the “maximum amount” allowed per league guidelines — at a press conference eight hours before Sterling’s Clippers were to tip off in the fifth game of a tightly contested first-round playoff series with the Golden State Warriors.

Silver’s decision was met with immediate support from NBA owners, players and ot

Image: MGN Online
Image: MGN Online

hers connected to the league who have been calling for swift, firm punishment ever since TMZ posted audio featuring the incendiary comments.

“I hope that every bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so can you,” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star who was tasked with leading the NBA players union’s efforts on this matter.

Under the lifetime ban, Sterling is prohibited from attending NBA games or practices, stepping foot inside any Clippers’s facility, taking part in business or personnel decisions, or having a role in league activities such as attending NBA Board of Governors meetings.

Silver — who succeeded longtime NBA leader David Stern in February — also insisted he will do “everything in my power” to compel the NBA Board of Governors to “force a sale” of the Clippers. The commissioner said “I fully expect” to get the needed three-quarters of the league’s owners — meaning at least 23 — to back the move, though Sterling could fight any such move in court.

If Sterling does sell the team, he stands to profit considerably: He bought the Clippers for $12 million in 1981, and the team is now worth $575 million, according to Forbes magazine. And he’d likely have plenty of suitors: Among them is Hollywood mogul David Geffen, who spokeswoman Priscila Giraldo says is “interested” in buying the team.

Rather than water cooler discussions of exciting NBA playoff action, people are talking about racist remarks by a team owner, said Gabe Feldman, head of Tulane University’s sports law program.

Estimating the team may be worth closer to $1 billion, Feldman added, “He may get a lot of money from the sale, but I think it will allow the NBA to shift their focus.”

That’s what Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday night, commending Silver as “fantastic” for making “a decision that really was the right one.” While the players aren’t rejoicing, they are breathing easier knowing what happened earlier in the day, he said.

“They were just happy that it was a resolution,” Rivers said, expressing hope that playing the game will be a “safe haven” for all involved. “… We’re all in a better place because of this.”

Clippers: ‘Now the healing process begins’

The inflammatory sentiments Silver referred to came packaged in a 10-minute recording that TMZ said occurred during an April 9 conversation between Sterling and girlfriend V. Stiviano.

On the recording, a man and woman argue about photos posted to Instagram in which she appears with African-Americans. The man says he doesn’t want the woman bringing any black people to games with her.

The sports website Deadspin on Sunday posted five additional minutes of what it said was part of the same audio recording.

Neither website has said how it obtained the recordings; Stiviano’s lawyer’s office said Sunday that she didn’t release them to TMZ, while stating they are legitimate.

On Saturday, Clippers President Andy Roeser suggested the audio was aimed at “getting even” with Sterling over a lawsuit.

Rochelle Sterling filed a lawsuit last month against Stiviano, who she said was having an affair with her husband and accusing Stiviano of going after extremely wealthy older men.

Roeser said that the offensive comments are “not consistent with, nor does it reflect (Sterling’s) views, beliefs or feelings.” Moreover, he cast doubt as to whether Sterling had made them, stating: “We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered.”

Silver expressed no such doubts Tuesday, saying the Clippers owner “acknowledged it was his voice on the tape.” Asked whether the owner expressed any remorse, the commissioner said, “Mr. Sterling has not expressed those views directly to me.”

Moments after Silver’s press conference concluded, the Clippers struck a different tone.

“We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today,” the team said. “Now the healing process begins.”

Silver says he shares sponsors’ “outrage”

There is no question that Sterling rightfully owns the Clippers. Some observers question how comments, made privately, could serve as grounds for such punishment, including possibly forcing him to sell the team.

Yet while there’s no precedent in the NBA, there is in other sports. In the 1990s, Major League Baseball repeatedly suspended Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott over racist and other controversial comments, and she ultimately sold the franchise.

Silver said Tuesday he’d “let the lawyers” address specifics, while stating flatly, “We have the authority to act as I’ve recommended.”

Feldman said some owners might be wary of setting a precedent in which anyone can be voted out “just based on something they don’t like, whether it was said privately or just said publicly.” That view notwithstanding, NBA owners universally backed Silver’s judgment in statements Tuesday.

If the owners follow through on the commissioner’s recommendation to force him to sell, Sterling could fight back in the courts. But should he file a lawsuit, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says his chances of success seem “basically zero.”

Sterling so far hasn’t had found support in the court of public opinion, especially among past and present players.

Members of his own team, the Clippers, debated boycotting their playoff game Saturday with the Warriors, according to coach Rivers. They decided against it, instead opting to stage a silent protest by removing their warmup shirts bearing team logos to reveal red T-shirts worn inside out, with the logos hidden.

Silver said he talked to Rivers, Clippers star point guard Chris Paul (who is also the players union president) and other players prior to reaching his decision Tuesday morning.

Dollars talked, too, to ramp up the pressure for Silver to act.

Over a dozen companies — including State Farm, Virgin America, CarMax and Red Bull — halted their sponsorships with the Clippers over the remarks, CNN Money reported.

Speaking Tuesday, the commissioner said he shares these companies “outrage,” adding “it will take some time” to get things right.

“I can understand how upset they are, and I’ll do my best to bring them back into the NBA family,” Silver said.

For some, his decision to ban Sterling was enough. Both Adidas and Samsung announced later Tuesday that they had renewed their “partnerships” in the wake of the owner’s public punishment.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who a day earlier urged fans to boycott Tuesday’s game and said there was “a real discussion among the players” to do the same so long as Sterling remained in charge, thinks Silver gave everyone enough reason now to come out to a game.

“I thought he was absolutely incredible … with the way that he took control of the moment,” Jackson said of the commissioner before his team’s playoff showdown in Los Angeles. “… It was exactly what the doctor ordered.”

Magic Johnson: Players are ‘very happy and satisfied’

One man thrust into the controversy — seemingly out of the blue — was NBA great Magic Johnson. In the TMZ recording, the man seems mad about a photo the woman posted to Instagram with Johnson.

“In your lousy f**ing Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with — walking with black people,” the man says.

“If it’s white people, it’s OK?” she responds. “If it was Larry Bird, would it make a difference?”

Bird was Johnson’s chief rival when Bird’s Boston Celtics and Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers ruled the NBA.

“I’ve known (Magic Johnson) well, and he should be admired. … I’m just saying that it’s too bad you can’t admire him privately,” the man on the recording says. “Admire him, bring him here, feed him, f**k him, but don’t put (Magic) on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”

After the audio went public, Johnson — who, since retiring from basketball, has become a successful businessman and part owner of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers — expressed dismay and insisted he’d never attend a Clippers game so long as Sterling was the owner.

Johnson offered a very different tune Tuesday, commending Silver for exhibiting “great leadership” in saying he and others “are very happy and satisfied.”

“I wish I was in LA, I would be at the Clipper game tonight!” he tweeted.

TM & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

23 comments

  • Tim

    How do you ban a man from the NBA, so he can no longer go to the games, BIG WHOOP, he still owns the team. Also, if my boss wants to pay me millions a year then call me names SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!

    • Michael

      He may be forced to sell. Even if no one makes him sell it, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin jerseys aren’t going to be flying off the shelves anytime soon because the Clipper money that goes to Sterling. So he could just sell it anyways, likely for far less than what an LA sports franchise is worth.

  • Regina

    Ok we can’t say anything against anyone or anything anymore. But I have to hear things about gays all the time. What ever happened to freedom of speech?

    • Michael

      Freedom of speech means the United States government can’t stop you from saying something, not the NBA.

  • screw aarp

    Does this mean he will not get his life time achivement award from the NAACP in Los Angeles California ?and will the NAACP ,give him his money back?

  • Michael

    I wonder how this is going to go. We all agree Sterling is a scumbag and we’re past that. Can the league strip him of his property that he paid for with his own money based on a private phone conversation? If Sterling sues (and he probably will because he’s that lowlife) he’ll have a case in court. Thankfully I’m not the judge in that one because that’s going to get murky.

  • Branko Pezdi

    Scratching head. What laws did Sterling break NOW? What crime did he commit that his property can now be confiscated? This guy has a history of bad behavior of all sorts (let’s start with adultery), including incidents of racial discrimination which were adjudicated in the courts AGAINST him, but the NBA had no problem with him for years, if not decades. Anyway, how is his PRIVATE despicable behavior any different from that of the private AND public behavior of p.c. luminaries such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, and all rappers? The nation is now burdened by more Obama legacy: thought police and arbitrary enforcement or non-enforcement of written law.

  • D C

    I agree, they should ban all the racists from the NBA for life! That goes for all colors. If they don’t, that would mean that the NBA commissioner is a hypocrite or just plain ignorant. What about the players? Or are violently racist comments by the players “terms of endearment” like they are in the NFL. I don’t know which is worse, the old coot’s hate, or the NBA Hypocrisy and favortism.

  • Terry

    Any body that has been married or in along term relationship knows that sometimes you say things you don’t really mean, because of anger. If he was really racist he would not have been dating a african american in the first place, and second of all had she been white ameican and he called her every thing but a white woman, would the NBA really have went this far? I don’t think so!

  • tim

    Omg ! someone said something offensive in the privacy of their home !! They must be destroyed !!!! So political correctness can be restored…lol

  • Be mellow

    People do indeed need to be fined and jailed for expressing negative thoughts against protected groups, otherwise society effectively condones improper thoughts among the citizenry. If we allow people to think in an unacceptable manner, then we risk having members of the collective being exposed to impure thoughts and ideas; that would destroy our civilization as we know it. Instead, only those thoughts that are deemed socially acceptable must be allowed to disseminate throughout the collective. Those who violate this policy need to be publicly chastised, fined, and be forced to liquidate their assets at fire sale prices.

    Bear in mind that this policy only applies to those who speak improperly of protected groups. Progressive minds are certainly not advocating any action that would penalize any member of a protected group from criticizing someone who is not a member of a protected group. Thus, in the present case it is indeed proper to penalize and chastise Sterling, whereas it would be improper to fine or ban a black ballplayer from the NBA for having ever expressed a negative thought against a white person. We need to make certain that this policy is widely advertised, for we do not want to make any member of a protected group fearful of expressing their thoughts freely; only members of non-protected groups require such scrutiny.

    The current case is indeed inspiring in that so many members of the public are getting behind the effort to implement thought crime penalties on someone who expressed ideas that are not progressively pure. Perhaps this concept will rapidly spread, and soon we can start concentrating those who express improper thoughts into camps where they can be reeducated or liquidated as needed to ensure the purity of the collective. Once society has been purged of those who have the temerity to think in an improper manner, those who are left remaining will enjoy a blissful society.

    • Saved

      What is that word “temerity”? I do not find that word in my Bible.

      What I do find in my Holy Book is that there are some people today that bear the mark of Ham! Those people should are condemned to be marked as inferrer just as God intended them to be! We need to turn back to the Bible for all knowledge!!

    • machine_gunner

      protected group. There is no protected group. What this loser said is no difference from what Alvin Holmes, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Harry Reid, and others have said. But I don’t hear anyone calling them to sell their assets, resign, or banned for their organizations.

      • Say What

        I know that the Bubbas do not need details to believe what you said. I, on the other hand, would like to see the quotes from those people that you are referring to that you feel are as equally despicable as what Mr. Sterling said.

      • Branko Pezdi

        Here are just a few quotes, James/Wake Up/Say What. The ACTIONS of these race prostitutes speak even louder.

        “White folks was in the caves while we [blacks] was building empires … We built pyramids before Donald Trump ever knew what architecture was … we taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.” — Al Sharpton
        “‘Hymies.’ ‘Hymietown.’” — Jesse Jackson’s description of New York City while on the 1984 presidential campaign trail.
        “Them Jews aren’t going to let (Obama) talk to me. I told my baby daughter, that he’ll talk to me in five years when he’s a lame duck, or in eight years when he’s out of office. …They will not let him talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is.” — Jeremiah Wright
        “There’s white racist DNA running through the synapses of his or her brain tissue. They will kill their own kind, defend the enemies of their kind or anyone who is perceived to be the enemy of the milky white way of life.” — Jeremiah Wright
        “That’s just how white folks will do you. It wasn’t merely the cruelty involved; I was learning that black people could be mean and then some. It was a particular brand of arrogance, an obtuseness in otherwise sane people that brought forth our bitter laughter. It was as if whites didn’t know that they were being cruel in the first place. Or at least thought you deserving of their scorn.”
        -Barack Obama
        After deriding Jews as “diamond merchants,” Sharpton said, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”
        In 2008 Reid said that President Obama would win over John McCain, because he is “light skinned” and has no “Negro dialect.”

      • machine_gunner

        @Say What

        Alvin Holmes:
        Ninety-nine percent of the all of the white people in here are going to raise their hand that they are against abortion,” he said. “On the other hand, 99 percent of the whites who are sitting in here now, if their daughter got pregnant by a black man, they are going to make their daughter have an abortion.”

        Harry Reid
        Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid apologized on Saturday for saying the race of Barack Obama – whom he described as a “light skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one” – would help rather than hurt his eventual presidential bid

        Jesse
        Jackson sharply criticized presidential hopeful and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for “acting like he’s white”

        And surely you can google the rest.

      • Say What

        Branko, all of your quotes, except the Jessie Jackson one, are accurate. You may disagree with them, but they are true. Jesse Jackson did pay for his comments. His campaign for the presidency ended soon after he said those things. All of the Machine Gunner quotes are accurate.

        On the same note, I do tend to agree with you that his type of thought policing is unsettling. You never know whom will have the power to define bad speech in the future. I would rather leave this type of thing to the protest of the citizenry.

    • Branko Pezdi

      I’m guessing this is sarcasm? Because it’s scarily close to the truth as far as Leftist groupthink is concerned.

  • tim

    OMG ! A white man said something offensive in the privacy of his home. He must be destroyed to restore political correctness….lol

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