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NBA Suspends Sterling for Life, Issues Fine of $2.5M

(AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File)

(AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Issuing about the strongest rebuke that he could, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life Tuesday for making racist comments in a recorded conversation, the first step toward forcing a sale of the club and permanently removing Sterling from the league.

Silver also fined Sterling $2.5 million, and again expressed outrage.

“I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him,” Silver said.

Several owners immediately chimed in with support of Silver’s decision. Sterling, the league’s longest-tenured owner and someone with an estimated net worth of about $2 billion, did not offer any immediate comment.

The penalties, which were announced only three days after the scandal broke, are the harshest ever issued by the league and among the stiffest punishments ever given to an owner in professional sports. Silver said a league investigation found that Sterling was in fact the person on the audiotapes that were released over the weekend and immediately sent shock waves throughout the game.

“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 still owns the team, but going forward he is immediately barred from attending any NBA games or practices, being present at any Clippers office or facility, participating in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team, or being part of any league business.

It’s unclear how Sterling will respond.

“This league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach and any one player,” said Silver, who as commissioner has broad powers under what’s typically called the “best interest of the game” clause of the NBA constitution.

But Silver works for the owners, and he will need 75 percent of them — if all 30 teams vote, he’ll need 23 on his side — to force Sterling out of the league completely.

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.

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.

“Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league!! Great leader!!,” Miami Heat star LeBron James wrote on Twitter.

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.

“When one rotten apple does something, or if you see cancer, you’ve got to cut it out really quickly,” Kevin Johnson said at a news conference in Los Angeles, flanked by NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and players like Steve Nash, Tyson Chandler, Luke Walton and Roger Mason Jr., among others. “And Commissioner Silver did that in real time. We’re so proud and thankful for him.”

The sanctions came a few hours before the Clippers were to play Golden State in Game 5 of a tied-up Western Conference first-round playoff series.

“When you get this many Lakers to stand up for the Clippers, you know something big is happening in L.A.,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “We are a single team here today, a team not only speaking out for what we’re against — racism, hatred, bigotry, intolerance — but what we’re for. We’re for great basketball.”

Before Silver took the podium, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted out a photo of the NBA Constitution, saying “It exists for a reason.”

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.

“Commissioner Silver showed great leadership in banning LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life,” Magic Johnson, who was referenced on the taped conversation involving Sterling, tweeted shortly after the league’s decision was announced.

Johnson’s role on the tape stemmed from Sterling’s female companion apparently posting a photo of her and the Hall of Fame player on her Instagram account. That photo has since been deleted, but raised Sterling’s ire nonetheless.

“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.

The issues raised when the tapes were released over the weekend represent just another chapter in Sterling’s long history of being at the center of controversy.

In the past, he’s faced extensive federal charges of civil rights violations and racial discrimination in his business dealings, and some of his race-related statements would be described as shocking.

He has also been sued in the past for sexual harassment by former employees, and even the woman who goes by the name “V. Stiviano” — purportedly the female voice on the tapes at the center of this scandal — describes Sterling in court documents 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.”

Stiviano is being sued by Rochelle Sterling, who is seeking to reclaim at least $1.8 million in cash and gifts that her husband allegedly provided the woman.

Silver said when he first heard the audio, he hoped it had been altered or was fake — but also said that from his 20-year relationship with Sterling, he suspected the voice was his.

“This has been a painful moment,” Silver said, “for all members of the NBA family.”

WGGB encourages readers to share their thoughts and engage in healthy dialogue about the issues. Comments containing personal attacks, profanity, offensive language or advertising will be removed. Please use the report comment function for any posts you feel should be reviewed. Thank you.

  • Jack Meoff

    When Paula Deen was informed of the comments made by Donald Sterling, she said, “Well, I don’t see what all of the fuss is all about. You are only talking about bunch of ……..”

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  • Michelle Lardbutt

    ROTFLMAO!!!!

  • chicagomom14

    The NBA will never air my TV again why is it ok for Charles. Emmm to make his racist comments. This makes me sick I am so sick of the double standard in this country. Why is it the black people can say whatever they want to say and get away with that Like Aaron Lewis this was about a sleazebag woman running around with trash and wanting it in their face and I would bet my life that that wife is totally in on this with her… the blackk men on his team didn’t seem to have a problem taking his money

    • teamkjk2010

      @chicagomom14 ok first of all its not black people in general that say whatever they want and get away with it you need to review some history hell google available 24/7 for your researching pleasure and you will see more white than any race say whatever and do whatever without consequences since the beginning of time white America has and still continues to say what they want about all races be it Asian, Jews, Black, Korean, Hispanic etc and for you to say take “his money” honey the fans and sponsors are the ones that line all of their pockets from the owners to the players so get hip to some facts it really shouldn’t matter what color the person is making poor statements PERIOD I GUESS YOUR PROUD OF MICHAEL RICHARDS, PAULA DEEN, RILEY COOPER, JOHN WAYNE, PARIS HILTON, MOBY, SHALL I CONTINUE BC THOSE ARE ONLY THE ONES WHO HAVE BEEN CAUGHT

      • chicagomom14

        first off I’m not a racist I believe that everyone in this world deserves a fair chance at anything that they can work to attain. Do I think its all black people do I think its all white people a big NO But I do get tired of the comments that are made by famous black people Who clearly make judgments about all of us And because I don’t agree I now people are going to make comments about me I am an educated person and not by Google I do not believe people I do not believe peoples actions are based on whether or not they are white black Hispanic Mexican Spanish you name it she’s a mix race and he slept with her how was it somebody who’s racist I do believe this was totally orchestrated by his white wife and his half black girlfriend and it is all about money that is all it is I have not gotten jobs and social services because I’m white I have been asked if I’m mind working with black people how legal is that this is just a waste of time and if you go after him you need to also go after Karen Lewis and completely remove her from her affiliation with Chicago Public and her position of power. It just really seems like everytime its a white person saying something stupid it’s a big huge media circus But when black people say it its okay

      • TeamKJK2010

        We all must realize every race GOD created has a few dumb, ignorant, crazy, delusional, triflin, nasty, hypocritical, mean, poisonous, deadly individuals in it no matter who they are or where they are from Beverly Hills to trailer parks or projects it’s the way of the world good and evil the like minded respectable people are the ones that make a difference for the children if the future no one likes Jeffery Dahmer no more than Hitler or Idi Amin. We just need to do better as a society together and stop knocking and tearing each other down.

      • NBA sucks

        jews are not a race, its a religion. leave the duke out of it. yes i agree that there is a double standard but when blacks are all about “nigga this nigga that” its all ok ? it is but should not be but it is. that’s what i’m disappointed in. the NBA players are part of the problem too. i agree that this owner needs to go away but when he sells he will make a hefty profit on his investment.

  • chicagomom14

    And this guy silver is a joke he couldn’t even speak to the man he is making a decision about and making all these comments about

  • chicagomom14

    The NBA is no longer about sports its about money

    • mikefl1971

      It was always about money! Why do these people buy a franchise to make money, dopes like this hurt the league and the other ownera interest. If this was a McDonald’s or a subway he would be in the same boat, he is detrimental to the brand. His franchise should be ripped from him. He has every right to say what he wants This isn’t a first amendment issue. You can’t say whatever you want at your job without consequences, either can this racist a-hole. If he sells the team he can wear a hood around town and say what he wants without consequences we would still think a racist but no group affiliation. Those of you that say I’m not going to give the NBA another dollar probably never did anyway, and if you do check the franchise agreements with other places you frequent, this would happen with most if not all of them it’s protection to the brand.

  • Publicdole

    They have shut our mouths but believe me I have shut my wallet to the NBA and any associated sponsors.

  • alpinequeen

    The first non-white player entered the league in 1947. In 2011 there were 17 percent whites, 78 percent blacks, four percent Latinos and one percent Asian. The league has by far the highest percentage of black players of any major professional sports leagues in the U.S. and Canada. By 2050, whites in this country will be a minority. It is predicted that by 2021, the last white player in the NBA will retire.

  • Doggone

    Sorry, but I really don ‘t think that one millionaire’s dumb comment about other millionaires should bring about this much commotion so that the Presedent, for whatever reason, needs to be interrupted from his job.
    As for Sterling, I’m sure his attorneys will be looking into wiretap violations.

  • ANN

    ANYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE THEIR FRIENDS AND THE FREDOM OF SPEECH, THE GUY CAN SAY WHATEVER HE WANTS AND BE AROUND WHOEVER HE WANTS, BLACK PEOPLE CAN MAKE COMMENTS ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE AND GET AWAY WITH IT, IF THE GUY DOESN´T WANT THE GIRLFRIEND WHO OBVIOUSLY WAS WITH HIM FOR CONVENIENCE TO BRING PEOPLE HE DOESN´T WANT TO BE AROUND, HE IS SO FREE TO DO SO! I AM FROM A MINORITY AND GIVE A SHIT ABOUT HIS COMMENTS, BUT WHAT I KNOW IS THAT WE ALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, AND IF HE or someone else DOESN´t WANT TO BE CLOSE TO MY RACE OR ANY OTHER WHO GIVES A SH…!!!

  • mother person

    Every summer I see a sign saying black family picnic, and not a word. I bet if I put up a sign that said white family picnic all hell would break loose. We need to stop this on ALL sides and every race. Its not about race but money and power. Poor people are the most numerous in this country and if we would just work together we could do so much together. We need to teach our kids to see beyond race and treat each other with kindness and compassion. I used to work in a small store and treated all people with respect, and surprise, surprise everyone treated me with the same respect. Racisim equals ignorance and that transcends skin color and the folks in power need to set a better example, I see kids on a playground that have more maturity than most adults. We could take a page from their coloring book. I think the media makes this worse than it has to be, what he said was ignorant, punish him and let’s move on and root for your favorite team!