NEW YORK (AP) ― NBA commissioner Adam Silver delivered the swiftest, strongest penalty he could, then called on NBA owners to force Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to sell the team for making racist comments that hurt the league.
Almost unanimously, owners supported the commissioner Tuesday, as he handed down one of the harshest penalties in the history of U.S. sports. “We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views. They simply have no place in the NBA,” Silver said at a news conference.
Sterling, 80, is banned for life from any association with the league or the Clippers, and fined $2.5 million ― the maximum allowable under the NBA constitution. If three-fourths of the other 29 owners agree to Silver’s recommendation, Sterling will be forced to sell the team he has owned since 1981.
A message left seeking comment at Sterling’s business office hadn’t been returned Tuesday afternoon. Team spokesman Seth Burton said in an email that the Clippers had no plans to issue a statement from Sterling on Tuesday.
Players and others cheered Silver’s quick action, with union officials saying that if the league’s punishment hadn’t included a mandate for Sterling to sell the team, players were considering boycotting playoff games, including Tuesday’s Golden State Warriors-Clippers matchup, the team’s first home game since the scandal erupted.
“We wanted to be a part of this decision, and we wanted Adam Silver to know where we stood. And we were very clear that anything other than Sterling selling his team was not going to be enough for us,” said Roger Mason Jr., the first vice president of the players’ union.
Sterling’s comments ― which were recorded by his girlfriend and released by TMZ on Saturday ― harmed the league, Silver said. Sponsors were threatening to abandon the NBA, and criticism was coming from fans on social media and even the White House.
Sterling criticized V. Stiviano ― purportedly the female voice on the tapes ― for posting pictures of her with black athletes Magic Johnson and Matt Kemp.
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” Sterling asks the woman on the tape.
“Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league,” Silver said.
The NBA’s longest-tenured owner keeps his team for now ― and Silver said he didn’t know if Sterling would fight to do so permanently.