NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at press conference April 29, 2014
Photo courtesy of CNN
By Steve Almasy and Ashley Fantz
(CNN) – Commissioner Adam Silver slapped Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban from the National Basketball Association and fined him $2.5 million Tuesday over racist remarks made by Sterling in a recorded conversation that was made public over the weekend.
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 and 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, said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
Johnson said the players believed the new commissioner, on the job for less than three months, would find the right penalties for Sterling.
“They don’t think he’s worthy to be an owner,” said Johnson, who is mayor of Sacramento … 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 Silver’s announcement.
“Those are exactly the sorts of strong statements we need to stand up against these hateful comments,” Garcetti 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 by Sterling, who has never been disciplined by the league.
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.
In the recording, the man seems mad about a photo the woman posted to Instagram with Magic Johnson, now a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On Sunday, the sports website Deadspin posted five additional minutes it said was part of the same audio recording.
Neither website has said how it obtained the recordings.
Stiviano’s lawyer’s office said Sunday that she didn’t release the recordings to TMZ but that they are legitimate.
Sterling’s wife, who is suing the woman, gave CNN affiliate KABC a statement Sunday night.
“Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband,” Rochelle Sterling said. “My children and I do not share these despicable views or prejudices. We will not let one man’s small-mindedness poison the spirit of the fans and accomplishments of the team in the city we love.”
Sterling was to receive a lifetime achievement award at an event next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles NAACP, but the national organization said Monday that would not happen.