The NBA on Tuesday banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million for making racially insensitive remarks that have roiled the political sphere and overshadowed the NBA playoffs.
Commissioner Adam Silver also said he would encourage the NBA board of governors to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, which would require a three-fourths vote by the league’s owners. Silver said he would do everything possible to ensure that action goes through.
“I didn’t poll the owners, I spoke to several owners, and I have their full support,” he said at a press conference in New York, adding that the process would begin immediately.
Silver called Sterling’s comments “deeply offensive” and contrary to NBA principles. The commissioner apologized on behalf of the NBA to a number of basketball legends, including Magic Johnson, who was referenced on the recording.
“The hateful opinions voiced by that man [on the recording] are those of Mr. Sterling,” Silver said. “The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage.”
The $2.5 million fine is the maximum allowed by the NBA, Silver said. The money will go to various anti-discrimination efforts. According to Forbes, the team’s estimated worth is $575 million.
Silver said the ban would prevent Sterling, the team’s owner since 1981, from attending practices or games. He would also be barred from doing any business involving the team or being involved in league activity, including board meetings. Silver said the ban is separate from the prospective sale of the team and has already gone into effect.
“I am hoping the actions we take today will satisfy out players,” he said. “I believe they should.”
On an audio recording released last week, Sterling advised a female friend against bringing black guests to Clippers basketball games and chided her for having pictures of African Americans on her social media account.
Silver said the NBA had investigated the recording and Sterling admitted to its authenticity.
“When I first heard it, I was shocked,” Silver said. “I was hoping somehow that it was fraudulent or that it had been doctored — that possibly it wasn’t indeed Donald Sterling. I have known Donald for over 20 years, so I suspected it was his voice. And we set about immediately investigating.”
President Obama and some members of Congress have condemned the remarks, which Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday called “reprehensible.”
A number of sponsors have already dropped out of partnerships with the team and state lawmakers in California have called for fans to boycott games.
Obama condemned the remarks during a news conference in Malaysia over the weekend and said they speak for themselves.
“When people — when ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. And that’s what happened here,” Obama said.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan told The Washington Post on Monday that Sterling has no place in the NBA and said other owners would have to step up.
The Clippers are scheduled to play their fifth game in a first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. The teams are tied at two wins apiece.