Adam Silver’s first big move as NBA Commissioner was a doozey, as the commish today banned San Diego Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and levied a $2.5 million fine after an audio recording of his alleged racist remarks surfaced over the weekend. Silver also vowed to force the sale of the San Diego Clippers by urging the board of governors to take what he believes is appropriate action.
“The Man whose voice was heard on the recording that was released on Sunday, is Mr. Sterling,” Silver said in a press conference today broadcast on ESPN and NBA TV.
Silver added that coming from an NBA owner, those comments only heighten the damage and his own personal outrage.
“Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic league,” Silver continued. “I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations.”
The damage, Silver asserted, manifests itself in causing current and former players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their association with the league. Silver then said he is accordingly banning the owner for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA.
“Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices,” he said. “He may not be present at any Clippers facility and he may not participate in any business or player/personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings or participating in any other league activity.
Additionally, Silver is being fined $2.5 million, the maximum allowed under the NBA constitution, noting that the funds would be donated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts. Silver then dropped the bomb by saying he would urge the board of governors to exercise its authority in forcing the sale of the Clippers and do everything in his power to ensure the action.
Sterling’s racist rant came to light on Saturday when website TMZ released an audio recording of a conversation believed to have taken place between him and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano. The man is heard on the tape arguing with the woman about posting pictures of her with African-Americans on Instagram. The man also states in the recording his displeasure with her association with former NBA great Magic Johnson and of her promoting any association with African-Americans via social media.
Scads of current and former NBA players, including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, and owners have taken to Twitter and made statements in to the media expressing their outrage over Sterling’s comments. Magic Johnson denounced the rant immediately after the recording made headlines, vowing to never attend another Clippers game as long as he was the team’s owner. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has said that he would leave the team if Sterling were to continue as its owner. In a statement to the media, Rivers expressed disappointment and sadness, saying that the news has had a negative impact on players, but the situation would not change anything going forward, as the playoffs are the team’s primary concern.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat