NBA Bans Clippers Owner Donald Sterling For Life

Apr 29, 2014

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says that after an investigation that verified it was Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist comments in audio released over the weekend, the NBA will ban him for life.

Silver says the NBA will also fine Sterling $2.5 million — the maximum fine allowed — and pressure Sterling to sell the team.

Doug Tribou of NPR’s Only a Game joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the decision by the NBA.


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From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW.

ADAM SILVER: Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling, for life, from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA.

YOUNG: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver dropping a bombshell, almost at the beginning of today's press conference, announcing the banning of the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers who, Silver said, admitted what everyone knew, that he, Sterling had made those taped racist comments that surfaced over the weekend. Doug Tribou of NPR's ONLY A GAME is with us in the studio. And Doug, if you could - if you could hear a word spoken on social media, which you can, you know, on Twitter, the word was, Wow. I mean you could almost hear the collective gasp.

DOUG TRIBOU, BYLINE: We certainly had that gasp in the ONLY A GAME office. This is a heavy hammer that was dropped very. I mean, this news broke over the weekend and in three days we're talking about a lifetime ban and other very maximum punishments that are on the table.

YOUNG: Let's lay those out. Donald Sterling is also being fined two and a half million dollars. The commissioner said that's a cap, that's all he could fine him. But he said he's also going to urge the NBA's board governors to force him, Sterling, to sell the Clippers. How does that work?

TRIBOU: Well they need a 75 percent vote - so the board of governors includes the owners and they will have to have that vote to force him out. The players organization, the Players Association, is saying they want a timeline on that, but I have the sense that this is going to happen pretty quickly. There will be a lot of pressure to have that. Then they can force the sale with that vote.

YOUNG: Well, former and current NBA players lined up outside after the press conference. It was quite something to see some of these giants of the sport - Kevin Johnson who is now the mayor of Sacramento said this today, after the announcement. He says there's a bigger - he said many things - many emotional things about how thankful he and the players were to the commissioner, but then he said there's a bigger message.

KEVIN JOHNSON: I hope that ever bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so can you.

YOUNG: So really quite a powerful moment here. What's that going to mean for the sport? I'm thinking tonight the players - the Clippers have a playoff game against Golden State Warriors. We have a favorite picture we have been Tweeting around, of two players at the previous game this week. A black guy with a big sign that - with an arrow pointing at him, saying I'm a black guy. And his friend standing next to him saying I brought him to the game. A reference to, you know, the white guy saying this a reference to what Sterling had said. What do you think it's going to be like tonight? at home?

TRIBOU: Well I think that there will be a very - from the player's standpoint I think that they're getting the concessions that they needed to get here. This is the most that Adam Silver can do. He doesn't have unilateral power to wipe out Sterling's ownership. They have to go through some processes. And the players were largely happy with these responses. Kareem Abdul Jabbar spoke about it, Kevin Johnson spoke about it - all of the players who spoke said this is the positive step and praised Adam Silver. So I think things are moving in the right direction and hopefully we get to focus on what should be a great series. The Warriors and the Clippers should be enjoying a great moment for both of their franchises

YOUNG: And the fans are probably going to go wild - the welcome tonight. But just a thought, Doug, lifetime ban - Donald Sterling is 80 - and for sale: he bought that team for 12 million, it's worth almost 700 million. So fine, I'll make $700 million.

TRIBOU: I don't think there's any way to get around that. He happened to preside - very badly I might add - the Clippers were a terrible team for decades under him, but he happened to preside under a period of extreme growth in the NBA. He's going to get his money, somehow. But I think the bigger picture is he's out of the league.

YOUNG: NPR's Doug Tribou. And by the way, I can't wait for ONLY A GAMES' analysis this weekend. Always the deepest, most thoughtful approach to sports. We'll have that this weekend. But Doug, thanks so much.

TRIBOU: Thanks Robin.

YOUNG: You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.