NBA players playoff boycott reportedly averted by Sterling’s lifetime ban

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A potential boycott of Tuesday night’s NBA playoff games by players was averted after the NBA threw the book at Los Angeles 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 over the weekend.

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.

The news of the lifetime ban, the first handed out by the NBA for an incident not related to gambling or drug use, came hours before the Clippers were to play the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. A heavy police and security presence was reported around the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles in anticipation of anti-Sterling protests. Arena workers covered up signage of sponsors who had distanced themselves from the Clippers and the NBA amid the controversy.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, who is black, said Silver “made the decision that really was the right one that had to be made … I don’t think this is something that we rejoice in or anything like that. I told the players about the decision, and I think they were just happy there was a resolution and that it’s over, at least the start of it. I think we’re all in a better place because of this.”

Chris Paul, the Clippers’ All-Star point guard and the president of the players’ union, issued a brief statement before game time.

“In response to today’s ruling by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, my teammates and I are in agreement with his decision,” Paul said. “We appreciate the strong leadership from Commissioner Silver and he has our full support.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that all 15 Warriors players would have walked off the court once the referee threw the ball into the air to start the game, and after they had taken part in warm-ups, pregame introductions, and the national anthem.

“It wasn’t just about the Clippers,” Mason told Yahoo Sports. “All teams would have been prepared if that message wasn’t what we wanted to do as players.

Kobe Bryant and TNT analyst Kenny Smith are among the many to join James in calling for Sterling’s ouster and Michael 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.”

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