LOS ANGELES – Newly named NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defined his administration when he banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling “for life” from the team and league for his audio-recorded conversation with his girlfriend that expresses his dislike for African Americans.
Silver, who assumed the role of commissioner when David Stern left the postion in February, meted out Sterling’s punishment in front of members of the media in New York City with shear verbal force and not one sign of regret.
“Accordingly, effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers’ organization or the NBA,” Silver announced. “Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clipper facility and may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.”
In addition to the severe punishment of banishment, Silver prohibits Sterling from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings and participating in any related league activities. Silver also assessed Sterling, the owner of the Clippers since 1981, with a $2.5 million fine, the maximum allowed under the NBA constitution.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, expressed his pleasure of Silver’s courageous decision. He was joined at the podium with current and former NBA players as well as L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and a number of Los Angeles political leaders. Johnson was called in by the NBA Players’ Association to help lead the discussion between the players and the commissioner.
Johnson first mentioned other athletes in the past that used sports to raise awareness of social inequality and bigotry in America. John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics, boxer Muhammad Ali, football player Jim Brown, tennis’ Arthur Ashe, basketball’s Jason Collins, and baseball’s Jackie Robinson were praised by Johnson.
“This is a defining moment in our history,” Johnson said. “Throughout history, sports have played a pivotal role in advancing civil rights. I believe that today stands as one of those great moments where sports once again transcends and sports provides a place for fundamental change on how our country should think and act.”
The firestorm started Saturday morning when TMZ released audio tapes of Sterling having a nine-minute conversation with his girlfriend V. Stiviano about placing photos of herself on Instagram with “Black people.” The topic of the conversation centered around a photo of Stiviano and former NBA player Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
There are many disturbing instances in the audio tape where Sterling kept telling Stiviano not to bring “Black people” to the Clippers’ games and that he was responsible for his Black player’s lifestyle. The alleged recorded conversation played out in the following dialogue between Stiviano and Sterling.
V: I don’t understand, I don’t see your views. I wasn’t raised the way you were raised.
DS: 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?
DS: You just, do I know? I support them 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?
Silver said that he was “shocked” and had hoped that the audio recording was “doctored” upon hearing the conversation. But Silver also said he now knows the truth and Sterling didn’t deny the verbiage that has lit up the social media world for the past few days.
“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver said in front of packed room of reporters.
“That they came from a NBA owner only heightened 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 multi-ethnic league,” the commissioner added.
The Los Angeles branch of the NAACP has been under fire for giving Sterling a lifetime achievement award in the past — and nearly presenting him with another one next month, however, the organization rescinded when the audio tapes surfaced. Officials from the L.A. branch has admitted error, but do not deny that Sterling has issues with people of color.
“If these allegations are proven true, we are extremely disappointed in Mr. Sterling,” Alice Huffman, President of the NAACP California State Conference, said in a written statement.
“Recent remarks like these, and those of Cliven Bundy, remind us that racism is not a footnote of our past, but a reality of our present that we must confront head on. For 105 years, the NAACP has fought against the culture of bigotry that leads to the comments like those we heard on the recording, and as public response to these remarks has shown, we have made significant progress,” Ms. Huffman added.
Sterling, a real estate mogul, settled a housing discrimination suit for $2.7 million, the largest of its time, when he was accused of unfair practices against Blacks and Latinos. NBA Hall of Fame player Elgin Baylor, who served as general manager for the Clippers for two decades, filed a lawsuit against Sterling citing racial and age discrimination. The suit was thrown out of court.
Silver, who “urged” the sell of the Clippers, did everything he could do under his power. But now he must lean on 29 owners to completely remove Sterling as a proprietor in NBA. Silver said three quarters of the owners’ vote would be needed to oust Sterling, according to the NBA bylaws.
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer