CORRECTION: An early version of this story misstated Kevin Johnson's first name.
Under growing pressure from basketball players and the public, Commissioner Adam Silver will announce the findings of the NBA’s investigation into racist remarks allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Silver will hold a press conference on Tuesday, April 29 at 2 p.m. ET.
League officials have spent the past few days investigating Sterling after TMZ obtained audio of a phone call in which the Clippers owner allegedly told his girlfriend, Vanessa Stiviano, that he didn’t want to her to bring black people to his team’s home games or post photos of herself posing with black people to her Instagram account. "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 on that ... and not to bring them to my games," he allegedly said. Stiviano, who goes by various aliases, legally changed her name in 2010 to V. Stiviano from Maria Vanessa Perez, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Silver is expected to announce some sort of punishment for Sterling, although the extent to which the NBA can legally sanction the Clippers owner is a matter of debate.
Watch a live stream of the NBA's press conference here.
Commissioner Silver’s announcement will also be streamed live on NBA TV and NBA.com.
If the NBA concludes that the tape is authentic, Silver will need to find a response strong enough to assuage the anger of NBA players and coaches -- 76.3 percent of current players are African-American - -without putting other league owners on the defensive.
Kevin Johnson, a former player who has represented the National Basketball Players Association as a special adviser throughout the Sterling investigation, called on NBA officials to take strong measures against the Clippers owner.
“At a minimum, Mr. Sterling should be suspended indefinitely, banned from games, slapped with the maximum fine possible, and forced to extract himself from basketball operations. He should be required to name someone from his executive team or family to take over all duties related to the Clippers,” Johnson said on his Facebook account.
The commissioner can fine Sterling up to $1 million without getting the approval of fellow owners if he believes that his alleged racism damaged the NBA’s reputation, the Associated Press reports. However, an attempt to enact a lengthy suspension or force Sterling to sell the team would have complications.
The NBA’s constitution bylaws are confidential, and the Sterling racism scandal is without precedent in the league’s history, so it’s difficult to say how far Silver and his colleagues can go to punish the 80-year-old. Noted sports attorney Jeffrey Kessler told the Wall Street Journal that he believes the NBA has the power to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.
"Requiring the sale of a team would be the most severe sanction," Kessler said. "But I believe the NBA would take the position that the commissioner has the necessary authority to take action.”
Several NBA owners have publicly spoken out against Sterling. Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander suggested that Silver stab "a sword" through Sterling's ownership by allowing Clippers players to become free agents. Meanwhile, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan said that he was "disgusted" by Sterling's alleged comments. "I’m confident that (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver will make a full investigation and take appropriate action quickly," Jordan said.
But league owners may hesitate to call for severe sanctions if they believe that doing so will harm their individual interests in the future.
“Some NBA owners may be uncomfortable with the league suspending an owner,” wrote sports law expert Michael McCann. “Even if they find Sterling's alleged comments reprehensible, owners may worry about the precedent it would set. In that vein, if Silver can suspend an owner in this instance, might he use that power against them in other situations? Might he suspend an owner for criticizing referees or tweeting sensitive information, rather than merely fine him?”