Donald Sterling Lifetime Ban: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Levies Unprecedented Penalty On Clippers Owner

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Donald Sterling
In addition to a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine, the NBA will seek to force Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, pending a vote among other owners.

National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver announced on Tuesday that the league will enact a series of unprecedented punitive measures against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. “Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA,” Silver said.

Sterling “may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers facility. He may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings or participating in any other league activity,” Silver said during a press conference. The Clippers owner will be fined $2.5 million as punishment for racist comments made during a leaked phone conversation with his girlfriend. In addition, the league will seek to force Sterling to sell the Clippers franchise, pending a vote among league owners.

“I spoke to several owners, and I have their full support. ...The owners have the authority, subject to a three-quarters vote, to remove him as an owner,” Silver said. The process to remove Sterling will “begin immediately,” Silver said.

The commissioner said he’s confident he’ll get the three-quarter vote necessary to remove Sterling from his role as owner. “I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners,” he said.

The commissioner’s steps went beyond what many commentators had expected.

When asked about the league’s investigation into the leaked audio of Sterling’s phone conversation, Silver confirmed that Sterling admitted he was the man who spoke on the tape. The Clippers owner did not express remorse for his comments. “[Sterling] acknowledged that it was his voice on his tape, but has not expressed to me directly any other views,” Silver said.

The NBA will donate Sterling’s $2.5 million to charitable organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination. Silver said he hopes that sponsors who backed out of their deals with the Clippers in the wake of Sterling’s comments will "will judge [the NBA] on how we responded to this incident.”

Describing himself as personally “distraught” about Sterling’s remarks, Silver emphasized the NBA’s progressive history on race, citing revered former players like Bill Russell and Magic Johnson.

Silver was unable to speculate on the financial impact of the Sterling scandal. “I don’t know, this has all happened in three days. I’m hopeful that there will be no long-term damage,” he said.

For now, Sterling’s lifetime ban will not extend to other members of his family, several of whom, including his son-in-law, Eric Miller, work for the Clippers in some capacity. “There have been no decisions about other members of the Sterling family. This ruling applies specifically to Donald Sterling,” the commissioner said.

Silver noted that the NBA has had several African-American owners of its franchises, and that it would welcome Magic Johnson’s candidacy if he were interested in buying the Clippers. “Magic Johnson knows that he’s always welcome as an owner in this league,” he said. On the leaked tape, Sterling asked his girlfriend not to post photos of herself with the Hall of Fame player.

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