Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life from the NBA and fined $2.5million after being found guilty of making racist comments on tape.
The 80-year-old had found himself at the centre of huge controversy in the USA after American network TMZ had broadcast Sterling apparently telling a girlfriend not to bring black people to the team’s games.
His comments had led to Clippers players making a silent protest ahead of their NBA Western Conference play-off series defeat to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday evening, while financial backers have been withdrawing their support for the club.
The NBA has taken a dim view of the furore and a statement on the league’s Twitter account revealed Sterling had ‘violated league rules through his expressions of offensive and hurtful views, the impact of which has been widely felt throughout the league’.
He is therefore banned from any association with the Clippers or the NBA, meaning he may not be allowed to attend any games or practice sessions.
The sanction also means Sterling may not ‘be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team’.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said at a news conference: ‘The views expressed by Mr Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. 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, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic league.
‘I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations, and caused current and former players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league.
‘To them – and pioneers of the game, like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Sweetwater Clifton, the great Bill Russell and particularly Magic Johnson – I apologise.’
Silver will urge the NBA’s governors to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, and the news was hailed by several prominent figures.
‘Commissioner Silver showed great leadership in banning LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life,’ said NBA great Magic Johnson on Twitter.
‘But not drained enough not to go out and coach this game.
‘I thought that was the sigh of relief we needed,’ Rivers said, referring to Silver’s announcement earlier in the day. ‘Is this over? No, it’s not over. But it’s the start of a healing process that we need.
‘We’re going to let this whole thing run its course and then we’ll all have better clarity. I want my players to be comfortable, honestly. I think that’s the most important thing.’
Silver, who has urged the NBA’s owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, has received universal backing throughout the league for his handling of the incident.
‘My team mates and I are in agreement with his decision,’ said Clippers guard Chris Paul, who is also the NBA’s Players Association president.
‘We appreciate the strong leadership from Commissioner Silver and he has our full support.’
Fans at the Clippers’ home Staples Center venue appeared to share Paul’s sentiment, and the earlier ruling took the steam out of what was expected to be an unsettled environment.
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