Adam Silver, NBA commissioner less than three months, acted swiftly against Donald Sterling.
RICHARD DREW • Associated Press,
With NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appearing on every television from his news conference in New York, Reggie Love watched the announcement of the lifetime ban for Clippers owner Donald Sterling in a Los Angeles restaurant on Tuesday.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, left, embraced fellow former NBA star Kevin Johnson at City Hall in Los Angeles after Johnson called the league’s lifetime ban of Sterling “a defining moment in our history.”
April 30: NBA bans Clippers owner for life
- Article by: JOHN BRANCH
- New York Times
- April 30, 2014 - 8:19 AM
LOS ANGELES – The NBA on Tuesday handed a lifetime ban to longtime Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, an extraordinary step in professional sports and one intended to rid the league of Sterling after he was recorded making racist comments.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would try to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, fully expecting to get the necessary three-quarters approval from other team owners. It would be a rare, if not unprecedented, move for a North American professional sports league — made even more unusual by the fact that the NBA is punishing Sterling for comments he made in a private conversation.
Sterling was also fined $2.5 million — the largest fine NBA bylaws would allow, but a small percentage of his estimated $1.9 billion fortune. It is unclear how Sterling, who is believed to be 80, will respond. He has made no public comments in his defense since the episode began.
“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 NBA.”
Dozens of players and several team owners quickly released statements applauding Silver’s move. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, the interim chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors, issued a statement saying he stood “firmly in full support of the swift and impactful action” taken.
Even the Clippers organization, apparently freed from the fear of repercussion from their unpopular owner, released a statement with the approval of President Andy Roeser and coach Doc Rivers.
“We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today,” the Clippers’ statement read. “Now the healing process begins.”
The controversy was sparked over the weekend by the release of audio clips of Sterling making wide-ranging racist remarks in a conversation with a female acquaintance. He was perturbed that the woman posted pictures of herself online with black men, including Magic Johnson, who played his Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Don’t put him on Instagram for the world to see so they have to call me,” Sterling said, in recordings released by TMZ. “And don’t bring him to my games. Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast, that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
Sterling has made no public comment about whether the voice was his, but Silver said the NBA’s investigation revealed that the voice belonged to him, and that Sterling had admitted the words were his.
Silver did not elaborate on what grounds, specifically, the league believed it could force Sterling to sell the team, nor did he make clear how a transfer of ownership might be conducted. The Clippers are valued at more than $500 million.
The NBA’s actions might put an end to one of the more criticized ownership tenures in American sports. Sterling bought the San Diego Clippers in 1981 and moved them to Los Angeles in 1984, deep in the shadow of the popular Lakers. The Clippers spent decades as a consistent joke, managing one winning season in Sterling’s first 24 years as owner. The team still has never made it past the second round of the playoffs.
But a few years of high draft choices and strong basketball management have turned the team into a burgeoning league power with a talented roster.
The NBA has long been uncomfortable with Sterling. He was unsuccessfully sued by NBA great Elgin Baylor, the team’s former general manager, for age and race discrimination in 2009. Baylor said in the suit that Sterling “had a pervasive and ongoing racist attitude” and ran the team with a “Southern plantation-type structure.”
That same year, Sterling paid $2.76 million to settle a housing-discrimination suit brought by the Justice Department on behalf of African-Americans, Latinos and families with children.
Silver said Tuesday that Sterling was being barred for his recent comments, but that the owners’ coming decision whether to force him to sell the Clippers would take into account his entire ownership tenure. Silver said the process to vote on forcing the sale of the team would begin immediately.
“I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him,” Silver said.
Silver, whose tenure as commissioner began in February following the retirement of David Stern, spoke at a news conference in New York. The Clippers, minus Sterling, watched from their Los Angeles practice facility, where the lane entering the gated parking lot is named — for now — Sterling Drive.
One by one, players and coaches pulled out of the lot in their cars, a few waving or honking to a handful of reporters and smiling supporters.
In a courtyard outside City Hall, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Kevin Johnson — a former NBA star himself — gathered with a contingent of current and former players.
“This is a defining moment in our history,” said Johnson, who has been acting as a special assistant to the NBA Players Association. “Through history, sports has played a pivotal role in advancing civil rights — Tommie Smith, John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics; great leaders like Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Arthur Ashe, Jason Collins and our very own Jackie Robinson. I believe that today stands as one of those great moments where sports once again transcends, where sports provides a place for fundamental chance on how our country should think and act.”
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