Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, NBA players applaud Adam Silver’s decision on Donald Sterling
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has spoken. Donald Sterling has essentially been excommunicated from the league.
Following an investigation that verified the authenticity of an audio recording capturing racist remarks by the Los Angeles Clippers owner, Silver exercised maximum punishment allowed by the NBA’s bylaws on Sterling. The commissioner has banned Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers and NBA while also slapping him with a $2.5-million fine, the maximum amount allowed by the league’s constitution.
As part of his ban, Sterling is not allowed to attend NBA games or practices, be present at Clippers offices or facilities, or weigh in on any team business and basketball-related decisions. He’s also no longer allowed to participate in league affairs, including NBA Board of Governors meetings.
Silver also stated that he’ll push the league’s 29 other owners to exercise their power to force an immediate sale of the Clippers. A three-quarters vote must be reached by the owners to permanently remove Sterling from the league.
“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver said in a press conference in New York held Tuesday afternoon. “That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage. Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league.”
Former NBA player and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson said that the NBPA is satisfied so far with the action taken against Sterling. Johnson has emerged to the forefront of this controversy, using his expertise in politics and the NBA to serve as an advisor and spokesperson on behalf of the players’ union.
“Today, the players believe the commissioner has done his duty,” Johnson said in a press conference outside of Los Angeles City Hall. “On this day, Adam Silver is not only the owners’ commissioner, he is also the players’ commissioner and we’re proud to call him our commissioner.”
Below is a breakdown of comments and remarks from Silver, Johnson and others on today’s decision regarding the fate of the disgraced Clippers owner.
- Silver on what kind of support he has from other NBA owners on this issue: “I didn’t poll the owners. I spoke to several owners, and I have their full support.”
- Silver on why the league hadn’t acted against Sterling before considering his history of alleged discrimination: “He’s never been suspended or fined by the league because while there have been well‑documented rumors and cases filed, he was sued and the plaintiff lost the lawsuit. That was Elgin Baylor. There was a case brought by the Department of Justice in which ultimately Donald Sterling settled and there was no finding of guilt, and those are the only cases that have been brought to our attention. When those two litigations were brought, they were followed closely by the league office.”
- Johnson called today a “defining moment” in league history and noted how sports has played a crucial role in advancing civil rights in the past. In his case, he pointed out the actions of track runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics as well as Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Arthur Ash, Jason Collins and Jackie Robinson. “I believe that today stands as one of those great moments where sports once again transcends,” Johnson said. “Where sports provides a place for fundamental change on how our country should think and act.”
- When will a vote take place to remove Sterling from the league? No timetable has been set, but Silver says the process will begin immediately. The players union is also putting pressure on the league to act swiftly on Sterling’s future as an NBA owner. “We will most likely use a standing committee of the NBA,” Silver said. “The equivalent of our executive committee is our advisory finance committee. I’ve had several discussions with Glen Taylor, who is our chairman of the board and also the leader of the advisory finance committee, and we will begin that process immediately.”
- Johnson arranged a conference call last night with members of theNBPA’s executive committee, player reps as well as other players asking them to share their feelings on the matter. They concluded that Johnson needed to convey three objectives to the NBA Commissioner on their behalf.
- Immediate action on the matter. That means soon as the league can bring fellow owners together for a vote.
- That players’ voices be heard collectively. They want to be actively engaged in the process.
- That the maximum allowable punishment for Sterling in accordance to the NBA constitution be exercised, equating to a change in ownership for the Clippers.
- NBPA First Vice President Roger Mason was among the players who stood with Johnson at L.A. City Hall on Tuesday afternoon. Mason said the players were ready to boycott games if appropriate action didn’t take place. He also discussed the next steps that the union would like to see through in the process: “I’m happy to come here today and say that as players, we’re very happy with the decision but we’re not content yet. We want immediate action. We want a timetable from the owners as far as when this vote is going to happen. But we feel confident that with Adam Silver’s urging, and obviously we’ve heard from a lot of owners around the league, we think that this is something that can be handled quickly.”
- In addition to Mason and other players, Lakers past and present were at this afternoon’s press conference in Los Angeles. Flanked at his left and right by former Laker teammates Norm Nixon and A.C. Green, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar discussed how he’d lost sleep the last few nights over the ordeal while noting he was “thrilled” by Silver’s decision. “His actions and focus were so on the mark,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “it was unbelievable. You should’ve heard us in there when we were listening to the press conference. We all started clapping because he handled it the right way.”
- Johnson’s former Suns teammate and current Lakers point guard Steve Nash also offered his thoughts on the moment: “It begs a bigger question. If racism is a learned behavior, how long will it go on for? How long will people be taught to be bigoted, to discriminate and to instill hatred into our communities? Let’s hope that this is an opportunity for all of us as players, former players, as a league, as a community to help educate and help take one step further to eradicating racism in our communities.”
- More of Johnson applauding Silver’s decision: “We have said time and time again, we are one family. It’s not just a league of owners, a league of players – we’re one family. And when one rotten apple does something or if you see cancer, you gotta cut it out really quickly. And commissioner Silver did that in real time and again, we’re just so proud and thankful for him.”
- Johnson and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti both encouraged fans to still come out and support the NBA in Los Angeles for tonight’s Game 5 match-up between the Clippers and Warriors: “This really is one city. When you get this many Lakers to stand up for the Clippers, you know something big is happening in L.A. And we are a single team here today. A team not only speaking out for what we’re against – racism, hatred, bigotry and intolerance – but what we’re for. We’re for great basketball. We’re for folks, who tonight, we hope are going to have the wind behind their sails, to be able to go forward and to win a game tonight and think about nothing else but what they’ve worked their entire life for – to be there tonight in the Staples Center on behalf of a city, a grateful and loving city, that wants to see them do their best tonight and win.”
- Johnson has no doubt that there will be enough support from the other 29 NBA owners to remove Sterling from the league. He pointed out that Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé has already took a stance that’s consistent with the players’ beliefs. “Our owner, Vivek, immediately came out and said zero tolerance,” Johnson said. “He didn’t wait to see if it was okay. He didn’t go check for approval. He just did the right thing. We’ve heard from a dozen owners who are all saying the same thing.” Ranadivé is one of two owners in the NBA of minority descent, the other being Bobcats chairman Michael Jordan.
- A number of sponsors have cut their ties with the Clippers as a result of this controversy. Silver doesn’t know what kind of long-term financial impact this dilemma will have on the league. “This has all happened in three days, and so I’m hopeful that 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, and it will take some time ‑‑ this will take some time, and appropriate healing will be necessary. I can understand precisely why, whether they be people affiliated with the NBA or the Clippers for a long time or those corporate partners. I can understand how upset they are, and I’ll do my best to bring them back into the NBA family.”