The NBA threw the book at LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, banning him for life, fining him $2.5 million and raising the possibility of a forced sale of the team over racist remarks he made to an ex-girlfriend that surfaced on a tape recording.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made the announcement at a New York press conference moments after Sterling told Fox News that he was not interested in selling the team. When reached after the press conference by Fox News’ Jim Gray, Sterling declined to comment.
Silver, who succeeded David Stern as NBA commissioner in February, said the league interviewed Sterling during its investigation. He said NBA investigators determined that the voice heard on the audio tape obtained by TMZ was Sterling’s and called the comments “deeply offensive” and “harmful.”
“Former and current NBA players are very happy and satisfied with Commissioner Silver’s ruling” – Earvin “Magic” Johnson tweeted
“Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic league,” Silver said.
On Sunday, TMZ posted audio of a man purported to be Sterling telling his girlfriend that he didn’t want her bringing black people to “my games.”
Silver told the room full of reporters that he is banning Sterling for life from any association with the team or the NBA. The ban, he said, includes attending games and team practices. He said the $2.5 million fine was the harshest under NBA rules. Silver said he will urge the Board of Governors to force the sale of the team and “do everything in my power to ensure that that happens.”
Silver said Sterling’s representatives found out about the ruling just before the press conference. He called the lifetime ban independent of selling the team.
“Former and current NBA players are very happy and satisfied with Commissioner Silver’s ruling,” Earvin “Magic” Johnson tweeted.
Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, tweeted, “I agree 100% with Commissioner Silvers findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling.”
Silver’s press conference was held hours before the Clippers were to take the court for Game 5 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Golden State Warriors. The best-of-7 series is tied at two games apiece.
The Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs have worn black socks in their games as a show of support, while the Miami Heat mimicked the Clippers warm-up statement in their playoff game against Charlotte on Monday night.
“Like I’ve said before, there’s no room in this game for an owner like that,” Heat star LeBron James said. “For us, as basketball players, we’re all brothers. We’re competing against each other and all of us want to win, but in the end, we all have to stick together.”
Kobe Bryant and TNT analyst Kenny Smith are among the many to join James in calling for Sterling’s ouster and Jordan took a rare public stance on a high-profile issue when he said he was “disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views.”
“We’re more than basketball players,” Wizards guard Garrett Temple said. “We’re human beings, first and foremost, and when you hear something like that, it’s very unfortunate that whoever that is talking feels that way, and I don’t think there’s any place in this game or in the world, for that matter, for thoughts like that.”
Fox News’ Jim Gray, Edmund DeMarche and The Associated Press contributed to this report