Richard Drew, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA in response to racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation.
Commissioner Adam Silver said he will try to force the controversial owner to sell his franchise. Sterling has also been fined $2.5 million, and Silver made no effort to hide his outrage over the comments.
“I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners I need to remove him,” Silver said.
The rebuke, which came three days after the scandal broke, is the harshest penalty ever issued by the league and one of the stiffest punishments ever given to an owner in professional sports. Silver said a league investigation found the NBA’s longest-tenured owner was in fact the person on the audiotapes that were released over the weekend.
“We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views,” Silver said. “They simply have no place in the NBA.”
Sterling acknowledged he was the man on the tape, Silver said.
Sterling is immediately barred from attending any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.
He also cannot participate in any league business going forward. It’s unclear how he will respond, and a lawsuit certainly seems possible.
“This league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach and any one player,” Silver said.
The fine will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and the Players Association, Silver said.
“This has all happened in three days, and so I am hopeful there will be no long-term damage to the league and to the Clippers organization,” Silver said. “But as I said earlier, I’m outraged so I certainly understand other people’s outrage. This will take some time and appropriate healing will be necessary.“
After the announcement, the Clippers’ website had a simple message: “We are one,” it read.
“We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today. Now the healing process begins,” the Clippers added in a statement released to the media.
Sterling’s comments were released over the weekend by TMZ and Deadspin, and numerous NBA owners and players have condemned them. Even President Barack Obama weighed in on the crisis, the first of Silver’s brief tenure as commissioner.
The league’s investigation started Saturday and players immediately began expressing intense displeasure with the situation, even going so far as to ask Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to get involved on behalf of the players’ union.
“Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league!! Great leader!!,” Miami Heat star LeBron James wrote on Twitter.
Before Silver took the podium, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted out a photo of the NBA Constitution, saying “It exists for a reason.”
The announcement of the sanctions came just hours before the Clippers will play Golden State in Game 5 of a knotted-up Western Conference first-round playoff series.
Several sponsors either terminated or suspended their business dealings with the team on Monday, though individual deals that some of those companies have with Clippers stars like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will continue and were not affected. Still, it was a clear statement that companies, like just about everyone inside the league, were outraged.
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