The NBA banned Sterling for life on April 29 and also hit him with a $2.5 million fine for making racial comments in a private conversation with his reported girlfriend. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also said he will attempt to force the 80-year-old Sterling to sell the franchise.
Silver held a news conference and announced that the league investigated the phone conversation, which was made public, and is distraught with Sterling’s views and the hateful opinions he expressed about African Americans on the tape. Sterling is no longer allowed to attend any NBA practices and games and isn’t allowed to be present at any of the club’s facilities and offices. In addition, he is banned from attending board meetings and from making any player personnel decisions.
The $2.5 million fine is the maximum allowed by the NBA under the league’s constitution. However, forcing Sterling too sell the franchise can’t be achieved unless 75 per cent of NBA owners agree to force him to sell it. Silver stated that he expects to get the support needed by the owners to force a sale. Sterling may not be too concerned about selling the club since he paid approximately $12.5 million for it back in 1981.
There are several groups reportedly interested in buying the club and the sale price could reach as much as $1 billion in a bidding war. One of the potentials owners for the team is former NBA great Magic Johnson. Silver said Johnson is always welcome to be an NBA team owner. Silver said Sterling admitted that his voice was on the recordings and the taped conversation is a violation of league rules due to the hurtful views it contains.
Reports said members of the NBA players’ union threatened to boycott playoff games unless Sterling was harshly dealt with. Members of the Clippers took part in a mild protest in their last game by turning their warm-up shirts inside out so the Clippers logo couldn’t be seen by the fans and television cameras. The players also wore black wristbands and socks as a form of protest.
The tape recording was released by TMZ and Sterling can be heard telling a woman that he didn’t want her to bring African-Americans to his team’s games. He also made several other racially insensitive comments to the woman including, “I support them and give them food and clothes and cars and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have – who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game?”
Some NBA owners have come out and publicly supported the ban and fine handed out to Sterling. Charlotte Bobcats’ owner Michael Jordan said he applauds the punishment handed out by Commissioner Silver and appreciates how quickly the matter has been dealt with. Joe Lacob, the owner of the Golden State Warriors, said he hopes the league’s board of governors will quickly force Sterling to sell the team.
This is a major move by Silver, who replaced former commissioner David Stern just three months ago. For Sterling, it’s not the first time he’s been accused of racism as he’s been sued several times for discrimination. Some of the lawsuits evolved around housing discrimination as Sterling also owns property in the Los Angeles area and was accused of not renting housing to African-Americans and Hispanics. However, Stern never punished him for his views. Silver stated that Sterling’s past behavior had nothing to do with his ban, but when the league’s board meets to decide if he’s fit to be an owner they will take his past into account.