THE NBA HAS banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from professional basketball for life over racist comments that the league’s commissioner dubbed “deeply offensive and harmful.”
Sterling, an 80-year-old real estate tycoon who bought the Clippers in 1981, was fined $2.5 million (€1.8m) — the maximum amount under the constitution of the National Basketball Association — and barred from all games, team facilities and NBA board meetings.
His comments had outraged players and coaches throughout the league, and sent skittish team sponsors running.
“The views expressed by Mr Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters in New York, saying that Sterling had confirmed he made the comments in question.
“That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage,” added Silver, who has been on the job for less than three months.
Silver said he would urge the NBA board of governors to “exercise its authority to force a sale of the team” and would personally push for such a move.
“This has been a painful moment for all members of the NBA family,” he said. “This will take some time, and appropriate healing will be necessary.”
The controversy came to a head as the Clippers prepared for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, which was to take place later Tuesday in Los Angeles.
In a recording made public over the weekend, the man now confirmed to be Sterling told his much-younger girlfriend that he didn’t want her associating with black people or attending Clippers games with black friends.
It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” Sterling says, later adding, “You can sleep with (black people). You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want.
“The little I ask you is not to promote it… and not to bring them to my games.”
Sterling has yet to comment publicly about the recordings.
Clippers players staged a silent on-court protest on Sunday, shedding their pre-game warm-up gear and wearing shirts inside-out to mask the team name and logo. They also wore black socks and wristbands during the game.
‘Full support’ of NBA owners
Silver told reporters that he had spoken to several NBA owners about the matter.
“I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him,” he said.
He explained that owners have the authority to remove him as the owner of the Clippers, subject to a 75 percent approval vote from owners of the league’s other 29 clubs.
Silver said Sterling had not expressed any remorse to him personally.
Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, the NBA’s first Indian-born owner, said on Twitter: “If TMZ recording is true, we must have zero tolerance.”
The game’s brightest stars of past and present had lined up against Sterling, whose team is now valued by Forbes magazine at $575 million.
No. He should not continue owning the clippers. #nochance #noway nohow,” Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant tweeted.
Sponsors fled the Clippers on Monday, with Chumash Casino, auto dealer CarMax and others pulling out of their deals.
“These views directly conflict with CarMax’s culture of respect for all individuals,” it said.
Airline Virgin America, insurance giant State Farm, Kia Motors, Red Bull, Sprint and AQUAhydrate, a water brand owned by rap star Sean “Diddy” Combs, all said they would suspend their sponsorship.