In taking swift and decisive action against racist Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday effectively dismantled a nuclear-grade suitcase bomb.
Speaking at a press conference in New York this afternoon, Silver brought the hammer down on the 80-year-old billionaire bigot, whose personal conduct has long been an embarrassment to the league. “Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA,” Silver said.
“As part of the lifetime ban, Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team,” Silver added. “He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings and participating in any other league activity.”
Silver said he will petition the NBA Board of Governors to force Sterling to sell the Clippers franchise to a more worthy investor, adding that he would do “everything in [his] power to ensure that happens.”
The NBA also slapped Sterling with a $2.5 million fine, and while that’s a drop in the bucket—that represents a hit of around $50 for the average American worker—the money will be donated to anti-discrimination groups.
Silver’s ruling came on the heels of the release of an audio recording in which Sterling can be heard making racist comments about African-Americans to his estranged mistress.
Silver said that in the course of the league’s investigation of Sterling, the owner confessed that the voice on the tapes leaked to TMZ was, indeed, his own. “The man whose voice is heard on the recording is Mr. Sterling … and the hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling,” the commissioner said.
The remarks were “deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver said, adding that the sentiments expressed by the Clippers owner “are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect” that have long been a hallmark of the NBA.
In response to Sterling’s racist invective, a number of top sponsors announced that they were cutting ties with the Clippers organization.
Silver succeeded long-time NBA commissioner David Stern on Feb. 1. The NBA Board of Governors unanimously backed the promotion of the 52-year-old back in October.
The ugliness of the Sterling controversy has diminished what has been a spectacular NBA Playoff run. Not only has the first round been a non-stop thrill ride—to date, there have been no fewer than seven games that were settled in overtime—but the ratings have been robust as well. For example, TNT’s coverage of Sunday's Portland-Houston game drew 4.07 million viewers and a 1.8 in the adults 18-49 demo, running roughshod over everything in the same broadcast window.