NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and has urged the Board of Governors to vote to force a sale of the team, it was revealed at a press conference in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon.
Silver started the press conference by announcing, “Shortly after the release of an audio recording this past Saturday morning of a conversation that allegedly included Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the NBA commenced an investigation which, among other things, included an interview of Mr. Sterling. That investigation is now complete. The central findings of the investigation are that the man whose voice is heard on the recording, and a second recording of the same conversation that was released on Sunday, is Mr. Sterling, and that the hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling.” He later said, “Mr. Sterling acknowledged it was his voice on the tape, and he has not expressed to me directly any other views.”
Silver continued, “The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage. Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural, and multiethnic league.”
“I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and caused current and former players, coaches, fans, and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league. To them, and pioneers of the game like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Sweetwater Clifton, and the great Bill Russell, and particularly Magic Johnson, I apologize.”
“Accordingly, effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA. Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers facility, and he may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings or participating in any other league activity.”
“I am also fining Sterling $2.5 million, the maximum amount allowed under the NBA Constitution. These funds will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and its Players Association.”
“As for Mr. Sterling’s ownership interest in the Clippers, 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.”
The owners have the authority to force a sale of the Clippers, subject to a three-quarters vote of the ownership group, the partners, to remove him as owner. When asked if Sterling will fight the forced sale of his team, Silver said, “I have no idea.” On if he polled the owners to see what support he has to force the sale of the Clippers, Silver said, “I didn’t poll the owners. I spoke to several owners, and I have their full support.”
Silver revealed one interesting aspect of his ruling, that “The lifetime ban has been instituted. This is independent of forcing a sale of the team.”
“This has been a painful moment for all members of the NBA family. I appreciate the support and understanding of our players during this process, and I am particularly grateful for the leadership shown by Coach Doc Rivers, Union President Chris Paul, and Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, who has been acting as the players’ representative in this matter.”
“We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views. They simply have no place in the NBA,” said Silver definitively.
On his immediate reaction to the news on Saturday morning, Silver said, “I think my response was as a human being, and I used the word distraught before. I spoke on Saturday morning to Chris Paul, to Doc Rivers, and it wasn’t even anger at that point. I mean, there was a certain somberness, and frankly, I felt strongly and personally for that team.”
Silver was asked if this punishment is based on past behavior, such as former Cliipers General Manager Elgin Baylor suing him and accused Sterling of envisioning a “Southern plantation-type structure” for the Clippers. “In meting out this punishment, we did not take into account his past behavior. When the board ultimately considers his overall fitness to be an owner in the NBA, they will take into account a lifetime of behavior,” said Silver.
Silver said specifically on Baylor, “It concerned us greatly. We followed the litigation closely, and ultimately Elgin Baylor did not prevail in that litigation.”
Silver said he has known Sterling for over 20 years, and was asked what their interactions have been like. “I have not been that close to him over the years, but there’s nothing I’ve ever seen in his behavior that would evidence these kinds of views. I’ve certainly, again, because there have been a lot of public filings about his activities, I’ve been aware of these accusations, but there’s nothing I’ve ever seen firsthand that would indicate that he held the views that were expressed on those audio recordings.”
On what he would like to say to Clippers fans, Commissioner Silver said, “My message to the Clippers fans is this league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach, any one player. This institution has been around for a long time, and I have complete confidence in Doc Rivers, in the basketball management of that club, and the players deserve their support. They’ve just been through an incredibly difficult incident in their lives.”
Brooklyn Nets Statement on the Silver Ruling: “Today’s announcement by Commissioner Silver sends a strong message that racism and discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated in the NBA family. The Nets organization welcomes and fully supports the decision and remains committed to tolerance and respect for all. We can all be proud that the reaction throughout the NBA – from players, management, ownership, and fans – has been unequivocal and united in condemning the scourge of racism.”
James Dolan’s Statement on the Silver Ruling: “I have been in touch with the NBA and fully support Commissioner Silver’s decision. I applaud Adam for acting quickly and decisively in appropriately addressing these disgusting and offensive comments. This kind ofbehavior has no place in basketball, or anywhere else, and we as a league must stand together in condemning this ignorance.”