September 18, 2014

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Clippers owner Donald Sterling banned for life by the NBA

Donald Sterling

Donald Sterling

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 was 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.

Chris Paul, the Clippers’ All-Star point guard and the president of the players’ union, issued a brief statement before leading Los Angeles against the Warriors in Game 5 of their tied playoff series.

“In response to today’s ruling by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, my teammates and I are in agreement with his decision,” Paul said. “We appreciate the strong leadership from Commissioner Silver and he has our full support.”

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 recording — for posting pictures of herself 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 recording.

“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 ifSterling would fight to do so permanently.

But he can’t attend games or practices, can’t be involved in any personnel decisions or participate in board of governors meetings.

Just three days after the scandal broke, and hours before the Clippers hosted their biggest game of the season, Silver apologized to some of the league’s black pioneers while meting out a punishment he believed would satisfy outraged players and fans.

Sterling’s Clippers have been one of the most incompetent franchises in pro sports, and nearly all of their previous seasons would have been finished by now. But after the most successful two-year stretch in Clippers history, the current team is a title contender led by Doc Rivers, a black coach whom Sterling brought in from Boston and paid $7 million a year.

“(Silver) made the decision that really was the right one that had to be made,” Rivers said before the Clippers’ game. “I don’t think this is something that we rejoice in or anything like that. I told the players about the decision, and I think they were just happy there was a resolution and that it’s over, at least the start of it. I think we’re all in a better place because of this.”

Silver said the ban applied only to Sterling, and there had been no discussions about whether he could sell to a family member.

Many owners supported Silver, and none of them publicly defended Sterling.

“We applaud the firm punishment handed out today by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and appreciate the swiftness with which the NBA conducted its investigation,” Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob said in a statement.

The fine will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts, Silver said.

Sterling, with an estimated net worth of about $2 billion, did not comment, though Silver said he did not apologize for his remarks. Silver said Sterling confirmed that he was the person on the recording.

Silver hasn’t even been on the job three months and already had to face a crisis that threatened the league not only financially — with several companies ending or suspending their sponsorships of the Clippers — but more importantly, socially.

The NBA survived the Indiana Pacers’ brawl with Detroit Pistons fans, and referee Tim Donaghy betting on games he officiated. But this brought a different level of outrage, particularly because the league could have done something sooner about Sterling, who has faced federal charges of civil rights violations and racial discrimination in his business dealings.

“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.”

After the announcement, the Clippers’ website had a simple message: “We are one.”

“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.

Rivers canceled practice Monday and declined a meeting request from Sterling. He wouldn’t address whether he would return next season if Sterling were still in control, a stance reaffirmed by the coach before Game 5 of the Clippers’ playoff series with Golden State.

That might not be an issue if the owners vote to oust the owner.

Sterling is estranged from his wife and had been dating Stiviano, 31. In court documents, Stiviano describes him as a man “with a big toothy grin brandishing his sexual prowess in the faces of the Paparazzi and caring less what anyone else thought, the least of which, his own wife.”

Silver said when he first heard the audio, he hoped it had been altered or was fake, but thought it was Sterling. And it doesn’t matter if Sterling didn’t realize he was being recorded, Silver said.

“Whether or not these remarks were initially shared in private, they’re now public, and they represent his views.”


  • Joe Smith

    No free speech for you!

    • Bruce Tennant

      Whatever side of this one comes down on, let’s understand Freedom of speech protects one from Government retaliation. there may be and are repercussions from employers or other organizations to which one might belong.
      To the other point it appears that California requires all party consent at this time so if either of of the parties were in California I agree there could be a problem there.

      The forgoing is my non attorney opinion.

      • Joe Smith

        It was just a play on the Seinfeld episode

    • FoodForThought63

      Free speech protects you from being imprisoned for speaking your mind-it doesn’t protect you from suffering the social and vocational consequences of saying stupid things.

  • onesears

    This will be in the courts for years..

  • Larry Crnobrnja

    Sterling purchased the Clips for $12 million in 1981 and will be “forced” to sell them for around $600 million? And maybe to a man with the morals of a drunken sailor?

  • Phil Blank

    I know I’m late with this, but the more I thought about it, the more angrier I became.

    There is no law against thought crime and the first amendment protects his right to free speech!

    No one can legislate, pass laws or rules controlling how someone feels or thinks!

    Plus the news media wants to use this and blow it all out of proportion just for viewers attention and monetary gain!

    Get over it people!
    You can not control another persons mind or feelings and God help us if it ever comes to that!

    • SpaceTech

      Agreed!
      The P.C. police are one thing but the “thought” police is a whole different story.
      Every single human I know has said something in private that they wouldn’t necessarily want to be heard in public.

    • B4CE

      He is not being persecuted by the law. He is a franchise owner, are you saying the franchisee has no say over their product?
      They may not be able to control what he says or thinks, but I bet the contract that allows him to own the team has a clause that allows them to control the image of their product

      • Pablo Jones

        But do you think those clauses were in place in the early 80′s? They may have been put in place after and he might have agreed to them, but there is always room for interpretation on the act and the punishment. If neither was explicitly spelled out it will be harm to enforce.

        • FoodForThought63

          Most contracts are renewed every few years or so, if not every year.

          • Pablo Jones

            I believe the by-laws they signed were updated around 2004. But they are very vague. The rules for suspending and the fine are spelled out and the “ruling” of the commissioner is final. But the rule he violated is very vague. Basically conduct that puts a bad image on the league. This is hard to show when they condone the way the players behave (drunken behavior, domestic violence, sleeping around, multiple kids from multiple baby’s mamas, not paying child support, etc, etc,)

            The ruling by the commish maybe final but do you think the team owners will want to set the precedent that any action the do can have them banned from the game and lose their team.

          • FoodForThought63

            I agree with you. I think his comments were stupid, but considering the situation (he did not make them publicly) I don’t think he should have been banned. I agree it is a pretty strong precedent. Unless that is the goal of banning him-to scare others away from doing similar things. Personally, it seems like a witch hunt to me. Someone wanted to get rid of him and this is how they accomplished it.

    • Sis Delish

      His slope girlfriend should be charged with wiretapping. But instead we convict a person who has never been proven to be or admitted to be the person on the recordings.
      Not that it matters, but I think that this old white person is the biggest racist in the NBA, he just is the poster boy for it.
      Ladies and Gentleman, Ladies and Gentleman, consider this the beginning of the end of the NBA.

      • Jeff

        he did admit to it

        • Sis Delish

          To the commissioner, he never publicly admitted it…

          New Age McCarthyism.

          • Bill Love

            His wfe did

    • SniperFire

      In this instance, it was private enterprise acting to protect their investments.

      Not that the totalitarianism of thought police isn’t spilling over into the entire America culture.

    • Bill Love

      No one is the nba is a league they can vote him out it is not a right to own a nba team.

    • FoodForThought63

      If you are going to use the 1st amendment to support your view, perhaps you should research what it implies. The government has not punished him for his statements therefore his 1st amendment rights were not violated. Do your research

    • Christopher E. Stith

      The NBA is not the government. They have their own bylaws and contracts. They are a business on one level and an organization of businesses (the teams) on another. The teams are franchises of the league. McDonald’s can tell you they won’t let you be a franchise holder. Burger King can, too. Why not the NBA?

      Nobody’s saying he’s going to prison for what he said.

  • SpaceTech

    Oh my, what a slippery slope we have here………………
    Since when does the NBA have any business deciding what speech private or public is proper, legal or illegal and what consequences are to be dealt to any person for free speech?
    I personally don’t agree with what this guy had to say, but it was a PRIVATE conversation that was illegally recorded and illegally made public for financial gain.
    I hope he takes some of his billions and sues everyone involved, NBA, girlfriend, TMZ.

    • Pablo Jones

      As someone else said this will be tied up in court for years. I’m sure there is something in the contract between owner and the league that talks about not doing anything to harm the reputation of the league. But if it wasn’t completely spelled out to cover this certain circumstance then it will be contested. If he wants to fight it.

      How binding can these rulings from the league be? They can’t ban the ownership, they might be able to vote the team out of the league, but that would be a vote by the owners. I don’t know how they can ban him from managing or asserting control over the team.

      What he needs to do is say you quietly relax your ruling and I will stay quiet on my end. If not I’ll turn this into the biggest circus the NBA has ever seen.

      • B4CE

        Evidently they can ban the ownership of the team, they just did

        • Pablo Jones

          They banned him for life. I haven’t seen anywhere what they means though.

      • Tommy Peel

        Pablo, I haven’t heard from you lately. I quit posting on this site, because it seems to have been taken over by a small amount of people with very vile racist comments. No logic in their responses, just uneducated negative views.

        • ekwaykway

          Quite a negative post for someone who quit posting on here.

    • Tommy Peel

      This man is going to make out very well financially. The NBA is an organization. They have laws, bylaws and regulations. If you break the rules, they can punish you according to the rules of the organization. Adam Silver is a lawyer just like Don Sterling. He is only going to do what he can legally do in the form of punishment.

    • B4CE

      The nba decides what is proper speech when it affects their bottom line

    • Bill Love

      It wasn’t illegal recorded he knew he was being record

      • Joe Smith

        Where do you get he knew he was being recorded? that makes no sense, he would have known the damage it would have caused if this got out.

        • Bill Love

          Its on espn and fox sports his girlfriend and there was another person in the room when he said it they both talked to mr. Sliver

          • Joe Smith

            I still don’t see where other people in the room means he knew he was recorded but whatever

      • FoodForThought63

        I am not familiar with California law on this matter, but in Ohio it is legal to record a conversation as long as you are part of it. So if I want to record a convo between you and me, it is perfectly legal and I do not have to tell you. now if I record a convo between you and Joe, that is illegal.

  • Sis Delish

    As of Today, it makes no difference Where LeBron ends up.

    When the employees have more clout than those who pay them, game over.

  • DonMega

    All that money he has an he has a face like that.

  • billgreg65

    While I do not agree with what this idiot said, I wonder what would have happened if he would have said “Don’t bring any of those stupid Italians with you to the game”. Or maybe keep all those Irish away so we don’t end up having a drunken brawl.

    • B4CE

      Interesting twist on the story, but that’s not what he said. Nor does he have a history of descrimination against Italians and Irish. And finally, the money making aspect of his workforce is not made up of Italians or Irish

      • billgreg65

        Do we know if he has a history of discrimination against other people? My point is you poke fun at or make comments about a certain group and you’re deemed a racist. Chances are pretty strong that this guy is a racist but I know very few people that are 80 years of age that do not share the same view point as this individual. Do not confuse what I have said as an endorsement of what this clown said but older people have a totally different dynamic on racial relations than we presently do right or wrong.

        • B4CE

          Yes Bill, we do. Reading the article helps to make informed comments.
          And yes, almost everyone has said off handed comments that are bound to offend once in a while, but this is not the case here. As the commissioner said,” we need to look at the entire body of work”

        • Bill Love

          They guy has bee sued so many times gor discrimination in his other businesses and by people who worked for him in the nba

          • Joe Smith

            Yet 75% or so of his employees are black.

          • Bill Love

            Yes but all I can tell you sir is look up the man and see what you find and you tell me your opinion. We might agree or not.

          • Joe Smith

            I will take your word for it brother

  • Sis Delish

    The new NBA Commissioner looks weak. Members of the Player’s Association probably towel-snapped him a few times to get their message across, then shaved his head and sent him out in front of the microphones.

  • alreadyfedup1

    The NBA knew about this man’s past reputation. The NBA is TRYING to clean up it’s image after not doing anything in the past.

    • Pablo Jones

      Makes it all the harder to enforce this. If they have know about this behavior in the past and have done nothing it is basically condoning it. Can’t let something go on in the past and only now start enforcing it.

      • Tommy Peel

        Its not going to be hard to enforce at all. As far as his past behavior, the DOJ brought suit against him and it was settled without any finding of guilt.. Elgin Baylor sued him and lost. The NBA is not condoning anything. That’s is why he was given such severe punishment. Nothing was let go in the past.