Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been suspended for life — he cannot be involved in operations of the team, nor can he attend games or league events — plus has been fined $2.5 million by the league, and finally the league will try to force sale of team, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Tuesday.
“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver said. “That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage.”
Silver said the NBA had confirmed that it was Sterling’s voice on an audio tape (first released by TMZ) making racist statements (Sterling admitted it, Silver said). Comments on the tape included asking his girlfriend (who is half black, half Latina) to stop bringing black people to watch his Clippers play. Including Magic Johnson.
Sterling has a long history of racist actions and statements (many documented in court papers) and while those may have been more egregious and public than this tape, this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Silver said he had to act. He added that while this was a private conversation it is public now and the league has good ground to act.
“My message to the Clippers fans is that this league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach, any one player,” Silver said. “This institution has been around for a long time and will stand for a long time. I have complete confidence in Doc Rivers, in the basketball management, and the players deserve their support.”
To force Sterling to sell — or sell the team out from under him, essentially — three-quarters of the owners have to vote to remove him. Silver said he did not poll the owners but the ones he spoke to support this action. It’s hard to imagine the owners not voting for that. Silver said the process to do this will begin immediately.
Sterling also has a long history of not selling his properties and being very litigious. Most people around the league expect him to fight the league’s actions legally and for as long as he can. This is not going to be smooth.
That said, with Sterling pushed to the side effective immediately the Clippers released this statement.
“We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today. Now the healing process begins.”