Basketball Commissioner Adam Silver slapped Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban from the sport and a $2.5 million fine Tuesday over racist remarks attributed to Sterling.
Silver said the National Basketball Association “will begin immediately” to force Sterling to sell the team, which he has owned since the 1980s. Sterling admitted it was his voice on the recording, but expressed no remorse for the remarks, Silver said.
“Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multi-ethnic league,” Silver said. Regardless of whether Sterling’s views were expressed in private, “They are now public and they reflect his views.”
The fine is the maximum that can be imposed under NBA rules. Under the ban, Sterling can’t go to games, attend practices, make decisions regarding the team or attend NBA meetings, and Silver said NBA owners are expected to provide the three-quarters vote needed to force Sterling to sell the team.
Before Tuesday’s announcement, the head of the league’s players association had called for Silver to hit Sterling with the most severe penalties.
“When a hint of cancer is shown, you have to cut it out immediately, and I feel that’s where the players are today,” Kevin Johnson, the former all-star who is the chairman of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee, told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
Johnson said the players trust that the new commissioner, on the job for less than three months, will find the right penalties for Sterling.
“They don’t think he’s worthy to be an owner,” said Johnson, also the mayor of Sacramento, “so whether there’s a sanction that includes a suspension, whether there’s a sanction that includes a hefty fine … the players feel very strongly that he’s not fit to be an owner and a part of this NBA family.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised the announcement.
“Those are exactly the sorts of strong statements we need to stand up against these hateful comments,” Garcetti said.
Former NBA player Thurl Bailey, a broadcaster for the Utah Jazz, told CNN that if Sterling merely received some kind of suspension, that would be an inadequate way to address the issue.
Bailey said he recognized Sterling’s voice on recordings that were posted online that are at the center of the controversy.
“For me, that was his voice,” Bailey said.
Tuesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, called on Silver to meet this week with him and other civil rights leaders, according to a statement from the organization. Sharpton is planning to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington to discuss the situation, it said.
Monday brought a slew of sponsors distancing themselves from the team and a host of other owners and team officials condemning the comments attributed to Sterling, who has never been disciplined by the league.
Adidas confirmed to CNN Tuesday that it was suspending its current marketing partnership with the Clippers. That means the company will not have in-arena promotions, signage, LED boards and so forth, but Adidas will remain the official outfitter. The Adidas logo doesn’t appear on the team’s warm-ups, shooting shirts and gear, Adidas spokeswoman Laura Lamkin said in an e-mail.
On Saturday, the website TMZ posted a 10-minute recording of a conversation, reportedly between Sterling and his girlfriend, whose legal name is V. Stiviano. According to the website, the conversation occurred on April 9.
On the recording, the 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.
Team President Andy Roeser issued a statement this weekend that said “what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect (Sterling’s) views, beliefs or feelings.” He suggested that the recording was an attempt by Stiviano to “get even” with Sterling.
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