NBA Commissioner Adam Silver listened and swiftly responded By Banning Clippers Owner Donald T. Sterling for Life
The National Basketball Association, an American institution steeped in 68-years of African American culture and history had been slammed by controversy laced with racism, hatred and bigotry, ignited by the racist comments of one of its owners, but on Tuesday April 29, Commissioner Adam Silver sent a clear message that such behavior would not be tolerated by banning Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling.
Silver made the announcement at a hastily arranged news conference at NBA Headquarters in New York that had the entire nation and parts of the world watching and anxiously anticipating the backlash outcome.
After authenticating audio tapes of racial remarks against Blacks as being that of Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling, Silver banned the owner for life and fined him the maximum of $2.5 million, thus ending his reign with the organization after 33 years.
Additionally, Silver said that he would meet with the NBA Board of Governors to force Sterling to sell the team.
It all began to unravel for the embattled owner on April 26, after a private conversation between Sterling and his estranged mistress V. Stiviano was leaked to TMZ and subsequently a 15-minute expanded version to Deadspin.com, exposing Sterling of the worst form of racial bias against Blacks during the modern era of professional sports.
According to the audiotapes, Sterling is believed to have indicated that he dislikes Blacks, doesn’t want them at his games and looks upon his multimillionaire Black players as pawns, servants or even worse his personal slaves.
On the audio, Sterling told his former girlfriend V. Stiviano; Well then, if you don't feel—don't come to my games. Don't bring Black people, and don't come.
V: Do you know that you have a whole team that's Black that plays for you?
I support them (Blacks) and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?”
The insensitive remarks sparked a social media and public firestorm, drawing strong rebuttal from former and current star players, to those in the entertainment industry and beyond.
It even drew the ire of the president of The United States.
While on an official visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, President Barack Obama said Sterling’s comments were "incredibly offensive racist statements," before casting them as part of a continuing legacy of slavery and segregation that Americans must confront.
Since being exposed Sterling has yet to say anything, but his team—The Clippers debated boycotting their playoff game against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday April 27. They played fraught with emotion from Sterling’s remarks and protested by wearing their red warm-ups inside out shielding the team and also sported black socks and wristbands.
Former legendary players such as Michael Jordan, the only Black among the fraternity of team owners, and former Lakers superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson whom Sterling’s mistress referred to in the conversation were outraged.
"He shouldn't own a team anymore," Johnson said
"I had a friendship with him. So for him to then make these comments, or alleged comments, about myself as well as other African-Americans and minorities, there's no place in our society for it," Johnson said. "There's no place in our league, because we all get along. We all play with different races of people when you're in sports. That's what makes sports so beautiful."
Former Lakers and UCLA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar complained about the media's decision to just now cover Sterling's racism.
"They caught big game on a slow news day, so they put his head on a pike, dubbed him Lord of the Flies, and danced around him whooping," he wrote, noting that he does somewhat understand people's reaction to Sterling's latest comments.
"What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise," Abdul-Jabbar continued. "Now there’s all this dramatic and very public rending of clothing about whether they should keep their expensive Clippers season tickets. Really? All this other stuff I listed above has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge?"
Former Clipper and UCLA standout Baron Davis who was born and raised in South Los Angeles told a website of a time when he felt hated by the Clippers owner.
“If we were in layup lines and he wasn’t around, I’d be in a great mood,” Davis said. “As soon as he walked into the arena, I’d get like the worst anxiety and I never had anxiety playing. ... I couldn’t do it.”
He also added, “I can’t find a way function. Like, not with this man sitting here. Knowing that he hates me.” Now, no other player will have to endure that from Sterling.
The National Basketball Players Association has requested special advisor and
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to represent the players in discussions with Sliver and he was instrumental in bring about what was a just and adequate respolution to the Sterling debacle.
The Sacramento Mayor, called it a "defining moment for the league," said the Commissioner of the owners became a Commissioner of the players on Tuesday.
The players wanted decisive action and had discussions of boycotting is the penalty was not severe enough.
Silver said he believed the voice was in fact that of Sterling on the tapes and that the views expressed was those of Mr. Sterling.
"They want the maximum of what the constitution and bylaws will allow and we're trying to figure out what that is. They want the maximum. They want a decision to be made quickly and decisively. If you don't respect the players in this league, then the values that we all espouse are for naught," the Mayor added.
The NBA has been a model sports league for the employment and advancement of African Americans, the best in the world.
An estimated 76.3 percent of its players are Black, 47 percent of its head coaches, 45 percent of its assistant coaches, 45 percent of its officials are Black, 18 percent of the league front office, including 17 Black vice presidents, seven Black women VPs, four Black CEOs and six Black General Managers.
However, those numbers are overshadowed by the Sterling scandal that could tarnish the NBA brand for years to come.
Major advertisers have already began to withdraw from the Clippers and Sterling, including CarMax, Kia, Virgin America, State Farm, Mercedes-Benz dealers, Amtrak, Red Bull, Sprint, Lumber Liquidators, Yokohama Tire Corp., Corona, AQUAhydrate and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians have all pulled support from the professional basketball team as the fallout because of Sterling remains associated with the team.
Local elected officials and community leaders have also voiced their dismay with Sterling’s comments.
“These statements are offensive and despicable and have no place in Los Angeles. I urge the NBA to act swiftly. L.A. fans deserve and demand better,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti
AEG which manages the owns Staples Center where the Clippers play home games, also released a statement.
“We are deeply troubled by these disturbing remarks which go against everything we believe in as an organization. We support the players, the coaches, the rest of the team and their fans and we are committed to providing a safe, secure and welcoming environment for everyone at tomorrow night’s NBA playoff game.”
Sterling purchased the Clippers in 1981, but has repeatedly demonstrated racial animosity both inside the Clippers organization and out.
Former General Manager Elgin Baylor charged in a racial discrimination suit that Sterling ran the Clippers with the "vision of a Southern plantation–type structure" asking him to create a team of “poor black boys from the South and a white head coach.”
When interviewing one prospective white coach, Sterling reportedly asked "I wanna know why you think you can coach these n**gers."
In 2009, he settled a case with the Department of Justice paying the largest settlement ever obtained in a government housing discrimination suit. He was accused of systematically denying rental opportunities to prospective Black and Hispanic tenants across his Southern California properties. In court documents, he stated, "Black tenants smell and attract vermin."