Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life and fined $2.5 million today by the NBA after he was recorded making racist comments about African-Americans.
“Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver during a news conference in New York.
Silver also said he would immediately recommend to the NBA Board of Governors that they force a sale of the Clippers and that he would do “everything in [his] power to ensure that happens.”
NBA players and officials — including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Steve Nash, and Players Association president Kevin Johnson — applauded the decision from Los Angeles.
NBA Players Association Vice President Roger Mason said that players across the league had made it clear they were willing to boycott the playoffs if the NBA didn’t take swift, decisive action against Sterling.
Sterling, 80, has owned the NBA team since 1981.
The money from the $2.5 million fine — the maximum amount allowed by league rules — will be donated to anti-discrimination groups, Silver said.
“As part of the lifetime ban, Mr. Sterling may not attend 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 will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings and participating in any other league activity,” said Silver.
The decision comes just days of public outrage directed at Sterling after an audio recording surfaced over the weekend that allegedly contained his voice saying racist comments to his then-girlfriend Vanessa Stiviano.
The tape recorded a man’s voice, which the NBA said today is that of Sterling, telling Stiviano not to post pictures of herself with black men to Instagram or bring black men to Clippers games. One of the men mentioned is Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
PHOTO: Team owner Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers and V. Stiviano watch the San Antonio Spurs play on May 19, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
PHOTO: Team owner Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers and V. Stiviano watch the San Antonio Spurs play on May 19, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas.
“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage,” said Silver. “Sentiments of this kind are contrary to principles of inclusion and respect that inform our diverse, multicultural and multi-ethnic league.”
Silver mentioned the league’s role as a pioneer in diversity and acknowledged famous black players including Johnson.
When asked about past allegations of racial discrimination by Sterling, including two prior lawsuits, Silver said that the NBA was acting now because they had concrete evidence.
Sterling settled a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in 2009 for housing discrimination; in 2011, Sterling won a lawsuit brought by former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor over harassment and discrimination claims.
“Those are the only cases brought to our attention,” Silver said. “When that [Baylor] litigation was brought it was watched closely by the league office. It concerned us greatly and we followed the litigation closely, but ultimately Elgin Baylor did not prevail in that litigation.”
Silver said that he had been in discussions with Kevin Johnson, head of the National Basketball Players Association, and that the players would be supportive of the punishment.