N.B.A. Bars Clippers Owner Donald Sterling for Life

4/29/14
 
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from The New York Times,
4/29/14:

The National Basketball Association on Tuesday handed a lifetime ban to the longtime Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, an extraordinary step in professional sports and one intended to rid the league of Mr. Sterling after he was recorded making racist comments.

Commissioner Adam Silver said the N.B.A. would try to force Mr. Sterling to sell the Clippers, fully expecting to get the necessary three-quarters approval from other team owners. It would be a rare, if not unprecedented, move for a North American professional sports league — made even more unusual by the fact that the N.B.A. is punishing Mr. Sterling for comments he made in a private conversation.

Mr. Sterling was also fined $2.5 million, the largest that league bylaws would allow, but a small percentage of his estimated $1.9 billion fortune. It is unclear how Mr. Sterling, who is believed to be 80, will respond. He has made no public comments in his defense since the episode began.

The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Mr. Silver said. “We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views. They simply have no place in the N.B.A.”

Dozens of players and several team owners released statements applauding Mr. Silver’s move. Even the Clippers’ organization, apparently freed from the fear of repercussion from its unpopular owner, released one with the approval of Andy Roeser, the team president, and Doc Rivers, the team’s head coach.

“We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the N.B.A. and Commissioner Adam Silver today,” the Clippers’ statement read. “Now the healing process begins.”

The team’s website featured an all-black background on its home page, and a simple message next to the team’s logo: “We Are One.”

Mr. Silver did not elaborate on what grounds, specifically, the league believed it could force Mr. Sterling to sell the team, nor did he make clear how a transfer of ownership might be conducted. The Clippers are valued at more than $500 million.

Mr. Sterling’s comments have overwhelmed the N.B.A. playoffs.

There was talk of boycotting games if players felt the league was too soft on Mr. Sterling.

“Former and current NBA players are very happy and satisfied with Commissioner Silver’s ruling,” Magic Johnson said on Twitter.

Mr. Sterling is not the first owner of a professional sports team to run afoul of his league’s standards, but he may end up with the most severe punishment. George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner, was given a lifetime ban from the day-to-day operations of his team in 1990 for conspiring with a gambler in an effort to defame Dave Winfield, a Yankees player. But Mr. Steinbrenner was not forced to relinquish his ownership of the team, and he was reinstated three years later. In 1993, Major League Baseball suspended the Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott from the day-to-day operation of the team for one year and fined her $25,000 for using racial slurs toward employees and making anti-Semitic remarks.

“This is a defining moment in our history,” Mr. Johnson said. “Through history, sports has played a pivotal role in advancing civil rights — Tommie Smith, John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics; great leaders like Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Arthur Ashe, Jason Collins and our very own Jackie Robinson. I believe that today stands as one of those great moments where sports once again transcends, where sports provides a place for fundamental change on how our country should think and act.”

Among the current and former players there were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Steve Nash, Tyson Chandler, Norm Nixon and Luke Walton.

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