LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Tuesday that Clippers owner Donald Sterling will be suspended for life and fined $2.5 million following racist remarks he made in a recorded audio clip.
Silver spoke to the press at an 11 a.m. news conference from New York, stating he will “do everything in my power” to force the sale of the Clippers.
“The hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling. The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage,” Silver said. “I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers association or the NBA. Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices, he may not be present at any Clippers facility, and he may not participate in any business or decisions involving the team.”
Silver said a forensic expert confirmed an audio recording taken by Sterling’s mistress, V. Stiviano, was not altered. In the clip, which was released by TMZ on Saturday, Sterling tells Stiviano, who is of African-American and Mexican descent, not to broadcast her association with “black people” at Clippers games. The audio clip was released shortly after she posted a picture of herself with Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson on Instagram, which has since been removed.
In addition to Sterling’s ban, the NBA fined him $2.5 million, which will be donated to anti-discrimination organizations.
“Whether or not these remarks were initially shared in private, they are now public and they represent his views,” Silver added.
Silver, who has known Sterling for more than 20 years, said he was shocked when he first heard the recordings.
“I was hoping somehow it was fraudulent and that it wasn’t Donald,” he said.
Under NBA rules, 75 percent of the league’s owners must approve the removal of a franchise owner.
“I’ve spoken to several owners, and I have their full support,” Silver said.
While the team currently remains under Sterling’s ownership, other parties have expressed interest in purchasing the team, including a group led by Magic Johnson, according to Yahoo Sports.
Prof. Maureen Weston, who teaches international sports law at Pepperdine University School of Law, says the NBA still needs to have an air-tight case against Sterling.
“They need to make sure they’re following their by-laws,” Weston said.
She says the NBA doesn’t make their constitution publicly available; team owners are given copies.
“Sterling’s argument would be that the NBA has not given him due process by taking these drastic steps,” she said.
More than a dozen sponsors have dropped their support of the Clippers, including RedBull, CarMax and State Farm, as a result of the scandal. Weston says the league will argue that Sterling’s affiliation is hurting business.
“That affects the overall strength of the league, of the NBA, and I think, at that point, the league feels that they’re justified to come in, and they’d have to take action,” Weston said.
Silver discussed the sponsors during Tuesday’s news conference: “I can understand how upset they are, and I hope I can do everything under my power to bring them back into the NBA family.”
The Clippers’ official NBA website briefly went black following Silver’s announcement, with only the words “WE ARE ONE” and the team’s logo.
The team also released the following statement: “We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today. Now the healing process begins.”
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, joined by NBA Players Association Representative Kevin Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Steve Nash, Luke Walton, Tyson Chandler and Roger Mason, spoke at 11:45 a.m.
“What we just heard today isn’t just about basketball, it’s about Los Angeles. The players have on their jerseys this city’s name — a name that stands for tolerance, diversity, openness, stands for civil rights, stands for basketball excellence. We may be a two-team town, but today we are behind one team,” Garcetti said. “We feel like justice has begun to be served.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional basketball player worth millions of dollars or a man or woman who works hard for their family. There will be zero tolerance for institutional racism — no matter how rich or powerful,” Johnson said.
“The players spoke, they acted and they were listened to,” he said of the more than 450 athletes in the NBA. “This league of players are standing together as one voice.”
“After initial outrage, disappointment, and sadness, I think today is a very proud moment,” Nash added.
Earlier Tuesday, the LA City Council unanimously approved a motion denouncing Sterling’s remarks and demanded that he issue an apology to the city and Johnson.
“The comments are very offensive and are completely inconsistent with United States Human Rights Laws, the long-standing positions of the City Council, the diversity of our community, the fan base of the Clippers and the very high percentage of minorities who worked for and are working for the National Basketball Association,” according to Parks’ motion.
The Clippers defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the first round of playoffs Tuesday night, 113-103, giving Los Angeles a 3-2 series lead.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)