NEW YORK (AP) - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver delivered the swiftest, strongest penalty he could, then called on NBA owners to force Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to sell the team for making racist comments that hurt the league.
Almost unanimously, owners supported the commissioner Tuesday, as he handed down one of the harshest penalties in the history of U.S. sports.
"We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling's views. They simply have no place in the NBA," Silver said at a news conference.
Sterling, 80, is banned for life from any association with the league or the Clippers, and was fined $2.5 million - the maximum allowable under the NBA constitution. If three-fourths of the other 29 owners agree to Silver's recommendation, Sterling will be forced to sell the team he has owned since 1981.
A message left seeking comment at Sterling's business office hadn't been returned Tuesday afternoon. Team spokesman Seth Burton said in an email that the Clippers had no plans to issue a statement from Sterling on Tuesday.
Players and others cheered Silver's quick action, with union officials saying that if the league's punishment hadn't included a mandate for Sterling to sell the team, players were considering boycotting playoff games, including Tuesday's Golden State Warriors-Clippers matchup, the team's first home game since the scandal erupted.
"We wanted to be a part of this decision, and we wanted Adam Silver to know where we stood. And we were very clear that anything other than Sterling selling his team was not going to be enough for us," said Roger Mason Jr., the first vice president of the players' union.
Chris Paul, the Clippers' All-Star point guard and the president of the players' union, issued a brief statement before leading Los Angeles against the Warriors in Game 5 of their tied playoff series.
"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."
Sterling's comments - which were recorded by his girlfriend and released by TMZ on Saturday - harmed the league, Silver said. Sponsors were threatening to abandon the NBA, and criticism was coming from fans on social media and even the White House.
Sterling criticized V. Stiviano - purportedly the female voice on the recording - for posting pictures of herself with black athletes Magic Johnson and Matt Kemp.
"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?" Sterling asks the woman on the recording.
"Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league," Silver said.
The NBA's longest-tenured owner keeps his team for now - and Silver said he didn't know if Sterling would fight to do so permanently.
But he can't attend games or practices, can't be involved in any personnel decisions or participate in board of governors meetings.
Just three days after the scandal broke, and hours before the Clippers hosted their biggest game of the season, Silver apologized to some of the league's black pioneers while meting out a punishment he believed would satisfy outraged players and fans.
Sterling's Clippers have been one of the most incompetent franchises in pro sports, and nearly all of their previous seasons would have been finished by now. But after the most successful two-year stretch in Clippers history, the current team is a title contender led by Doc Rivers, a black coach whom Sterling brought in from Boston and paid $7 million a year.
"(Silver) made the decision that really was the right one that had to be made," Rivers said before the Clippers' game. "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."
Silver said the ban applied only to Sterling, and there had been no discussions about whether he could sell to a family member.
Many owners supported Silver, and none of them publicly defended Sterling.
"We applaud the firm punishment handed out today by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and appreciate the swiftness with which the NBA conducted its investigation," Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob said in a statement.
The fine will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts, Silver said.
Sterling, with an estimated net worth of about $2 billion, did not comment, though Silver said he did not apologize for his remarks. Silver said Sterling confirmed that he was the person on the recording.
Silver hasn't even been on the job three months and already had to face a crisis that threatened the league not only financially - with several companies ending or suspending their sponsorships of the Clippers - but more importantly, socially.
The NBA survived the Indiana Pacers' brawl with Detroit Pistons fans, and referee Tim Donaghy betting on games he officiated. But this brought a different level of outrage, particularly because the league could have done something sooner about Sterling, who has faced federal charges of civil rights violations and racial discrimination in his business dealings.
"This has all happened in three days, and so I am hopeful there will be no long-term damage to the league and to the Clippers organization," Silver said. "But as I said earlier, I'm outraged so I certainly understand other people's outrage."
After the announcement, the Clippers' website had a simple message: "We are one."
"We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today. Now the healing process begins," the Clippers added in a statement.
Rivers canceled practice Monday and declined a meeting request from Sterling. He wouldn't address whether he would return next season if Sterling were still in control, a stance reaffirmed by the coach before Game 5 of the Clippers' playoff series with Golden State.
That might not be an issue if the owners vote to oust the owner.
Sterling is estranged from his wife and had been dating Stiviano, 31. In court documents, Stiviano describes him as a man "with a big toothy grin brandishing his sexual prowess in the faces of the Paparazzi and caring less what anyone else thought, the least of which, his own wife."
Silver said when he first heard the audio, he hoped it had been altered or was fake, but thought it was Sterling. And it doesn't matter if Sterling didn't realize he was being recorded, Silver said.
"Whether or not these remarks were initially shared in private, they're now public, and they represent his views."
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-------------------------------------------- NEW YORK (AP) -- Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA in response to racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation. Commissioner Adam Silver said he will try to force the controversial owner to sell his franchise. Sterling has also been fined $2.5 million, and Silver made no effort to hide his outrage over the comments. He said a league investigation found that the league's longest-tenured owner was in fact the person on the audiotapes that were released over the weekend. "We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling's views," Silver said. "They simply have no place in the NBA." Sterling acknowledged he was the man on the tape, Silver said. Sterling is immediately barred from attending 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. He also cannot participate in any league business going forward. "This league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach and any one player," Silver said. The fine will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and the Players Association, Silver said. Sterling's comments were released over the weekend by TMZ and Deadspin, and numerous NBA owners and players have condemned them. Even President Barack Obama weighed in on the crisis, the first of Silver's brief tenure as commissioner. Before Silver took the podium, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted out a photo of the NBA Constitution, saying "It exists for a reason." The announcement of the sanctions came just hours before the Clippers will play Golden State in Game 5 of a knotted-up Western Conference first-round playoff series. Several sponsors either terminated or suspended their business dealings with the team on Monday, though individual deals that some of those companies have with Clippers stars like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will continue and were not affected. Still, it was a clear statement that companies, like just about everyone inside the league, were outraged. The issues raised when the tapes were released over the weekend represent just another chapter in Sterling's long history of being at the center of controversy. In the past, he's faced extensive federal charges of civil rights violations and racial discrimination in his business dealings, and some of his race-related statements would be described as shocking. He has also been sued in the past for sexual harassment by former employees, and even the woman who goes by the name "V. Stiviano" -- purportedly the female voice on the tapes at the center of this scandal -- describes Sterling in court documents as a man "with a big toothy grin brandishing his sexual prowess in the faces of the Paparazzi and caring less what anyone else thought, the least of which, his own wife." Stiviano is being sued by Rochelle Sterling, who is seeking to reclaim at least $1.8 million in cash and gifts that her husband allegedly provided the woman.
----------------------------- NEW YORK (AP) -- Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA in response to racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also says he will try to force a sale of the Clippers and also fined Sterling $2.5 million.
Silver called Sterling's comments and views "deeply offensive and harmful."
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