Clippers Owner “Banned for Life” From NBA

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver promised swift action in what has been called a "defining moment" for the league

The NBA announced in a sweeping decision Tuesday that Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been "banned for life" from any association with the team or league following an investigation into recorded comments that the league has determined were made by Sterling.

"Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. "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 any personnel decisions involving the team."

Silver, who became the league's commissioner Feb. 1, said the league will "force a sale" of the team -- a process that he said will start immediately. The owners have the authority subject to three-quarters vote of the ownership partners to remove him as an owner, Silver said.

The NBA's constitution is not public, though it is understood the commissioner's powers are broad when it comes to dealing with matters deemed "prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball."

Sterling, who has owned the team since 1981, also faces a fine of $2.5 million, the maximum allowed under league rules. NBC News initially reported that the fine was to be $5 million, citing an NBA official. Silver issued the official announcement at a press conference to discuss the league's investigation of Sterling.

The money will be donated to anti-discrimination groups selected by the NBA, Silver said.

Silver addressed a key point of the investigation during the news conference -- whether the male voice heard on the recording is that of the 80-year-old Clippers owner. The investigation included an interview with Sterling, during which it was determined that the voice on the recording is that of Sterling, Silver said.

"The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful," said Silver, adding that Sterling acknowledged the voice was his.

On the recording, a man can be heard criticizing a woman, identified by TMZ and Deadspin as Sterling's girlfriend V. Stiviano, for posting online about bringing black friends to games. The man is also heard chastising the woman for posting a photo on Instagram with Lakers great and Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson.

The development comes just hours before the Clippers are scheduled to play their first home game since the comments — part of a recorded conversation with a female companion posted on TMZ and Deadspin — came to light. The Clippers organization released a statement after the announcement: "We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today. Now the healing process begins."

The investigation has been conducted amid on- and off-court protests, backlash from Clippers sponsors and calls for action from current and former NBA stars. More protests were expected Tuesday afternoon at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles before the Game 5 playoff game between the Clippers and Golden State Warriors.

The decision drew a swift and positive response from current and former players, including Lakers and UCLA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

"I'm just thrilled with what Commissioner Silver did," Abdul-Jabbar said at a news conference outside Los Angeles City Hall. "He got to the bottom of this and figured out what the truth was. He handled it the right way.

"It's going be a new day in the city."

Abdul-Jabbar's Lakers teammate Johnson, who found himself embroiled in the scandal after he was mentioned by name in the recording, tweeted:  "Former and current NBA players are very happy and satisfied with Commissioner Silver's ruling."

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former player who serves as a special adviser to the National Basketball Player's Association, said Monday that players called for the most "severe sanction possible."  He applauded the league's decision at a news conference after Silver's announcement.

"There will be zero tolerance for institutional racism no matter how rich or powerful," Johnson said. "Sports, once again... provides a place for fundamental change for how our country should think and act."

Lakers President Jeanie Buss also released a statement that echoed those made by several NBA team officials: "The comments and sentiments expressed on the tape are reprehensible and disturbing, and certainly are the opposite of how the Lakers feel about the league's players and fans. I have full confidence that Adam Silver and the NBA will handle this situation appropriately."

NBC4 is attempting to contact Sterling's attorney for comment.

V. Stiviano, the woman identified by her attorney as the female heard on the recording at the center of the investigation, told NBC4 from behind a reflective visor outside her home Monday that she has no comment. Stiviano's attorney said she did not leak the recording to the media.

Andy Roeser, the Clippers' president, released the following statement:  "Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life."

The National NAACP requested Tuesday a meeting with Silver to discuss the investigation. Roslyn M. Brock, the chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors, said the National NAACP wants to talk to Silver about what it calls, "the influence and impact of racism in the National Basketball Association."

The request comes a day after the organization's Los Angeles chapter announced Sterling would not be receiving a lifetime achievement honor he was slated to accept at an awards event next month.

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