Donald Sterling banned for life by NBA, fined $2.5M

The Augusta Chronicle/Rick McKee

NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life Tuesday, fined him $2.5 million and asked the league's owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the team after Sterling made racist remarks in a recorded conversation.

The comments, posted on the celebrity website TMZ late Friday, drew outrage and condemnation from across the country. Silver said the league conducted an investigation in which Sterling admitted he was the voice on the recording.

"The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful," Silver said in a packed news conference at a midtown Manhattan hotel. " . . . We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling's views. They simply have no place in the NBA."

Sterling, 80, who bought the Clippers in 1981 and is the longest-tenured owner in the league, will not be allowed to attend games, have any role in the team operations or be able to serve as one of the league's governors, Silver said.

Silver said the process of forcing a sale of the Clippers "will begin immediately." He needs three-quarters of the NBA's Board of Governors -- which is composed of the league's 30 owners -- to vote Sterling out and said he will do "everything in his power" to make sure he gets it. Silver would need 22 of the 29 owners to vote to force Sterling to sell.

"I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him," said Silver, who added that the lifetime ban is independent of forcing a sale of the team.

In the recording, Sterling is heard telling his ex-girlfriend -- identified as "V. Stiviano" -- not to bring black people to his games after she posted a photograph of herself and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson on Instagram.

Silver said Sterling's representatives were informed shortly before Tuesday's news conference of the actions he would be taking, but he was not aware of their reaction. Before Silver's announcement, Sterling told Fox News reporter Jim Gray that the Clippers were "not for sale." Sterling has not commented since the NBA's punishment was announced.

According to Silver, the $2.5 million -- the maximum fine under NBA bylaws -- would be donated to organizations dedicated to fighting discrimination and promoting tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and the Players Association.

Silver, who succeeded David Stern as NBA commissioner less than three months ago, attended Game 4 of the Clippers-Warriors series in Oakland on Sunday and said he spoke with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, point guard Chris Paul, who is the president of the National Basketball Players Association, and other members of the team. Silver's actions on Tuesday appear to have quelled, for now, a complete mutiny by NBA players.

Speaking during a news conference in Los Angeles, Roger Mason Jr., first vice president of the NBPA, said all players -- not just the Clippers -- had been prepared to boycott Tuesday night's playoff games if Silver did not act as he did. Mason also urged owners to give a timetable for taking the vote to remove Sterling as owner.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player and current union representative, praised Silver's action, saying "it delivered a statement about where we are as a country.

"I hope that every bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so can you," Johnson said at the Los Angeles news conference. " . . . It doesn't matter if you're a professional basketball player, or a man or a woman who works hard for your family, there will be zero tolerance for institutional racism, no matter how rich or powerful."

Magic Johnson also praised Silver.

"Current and former NBA players now know that in Commissioner Adam Silver we have a great leader leading our league," he said in a post on his verified Twitter account.

Silver admitted he was "personally distraught" by the views Sterling expressed in the tape.

"When I first heard the comments, I was hoping it was doctored and hoping it wasn't Donald," Silver said. "I've known Donald for over 20 years. I haven't been that close to him, but never seen anything that would indicate that he held the views that were expressed in these audiotapes."

The NAACP said Tuesday morning that it wants to meet with Silver to discuss Sterling and his comments. Roslyn M. Brock, the chair of the NAACP national board of directors, said the organization wants to talk to Silver about what it calls "the influence and impact of racism in the National Basketball Association."

Silver said that Sterling's ban did not extend to the members of his family. After Silver's announcement, the home page of the Clippers' website was entirely black with the words "We Are One" and the team logo centered at the top. The Clippers, who played the Warriors in Game 5 of their playoff series Tuesday night in Los Angeles, also released a statement.

"We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver today," the Clippers statement read. "Now the healing process begins."

On Monday, the first business day since the Sterling story broke, nearly every sponsor of the Clippers, including CarMax, State Farm Insurance, Mercedes-Benz, Kia Motors America, Virgin America airline and Red Bull, said they were ending their association with the team.

With wire reports

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