National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver announced at a press conference yesterday that the league would fine L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling $2.5 million and ban him from the Clippers organization for life. Silver said he had a conversation with Sterling about a tape released by TMZ over the weekend, confirming the racist rant was his.
Silver said the league was "meting out this punishment" based on the comments and not due to "previous behavior." Punishment for that previous behavior may come later. Silver hopes team owners will force the sale of the L.A. Clippers and that that process, which includes a standing committee of the NBA, will start immediately. The NBA's constitution is not a public document, and Silver would not speak to too many details of the processes he says are now in place, but said forcing the sale of the team would require 3/4 of owners voting in favor.
Some recipients of Sterling donations now say they're planning to return the money. Most notably, UCLA is returning nearly $500,000 donated for kidney research and refusing the $2.5 million still pledged, freeing up just enough money for Sterling to pay his NBA fine. A homeless teen shelter and Goodwill of Southern California are also rejecting Sterling's donation, although other charitable groups intend to keep and spend the donated money, or already have. The Clippers defeated the Golden State Warriors 113-103 in the fifth game of the Round 1 playoff series.
The NAACP, meanwhile, says a lifetime ban is not enough. The Los Angeles chapter of the organization actually previously awarded Sterling with a lifetime achievement award and was scheduled to award him a second one next month. The chapter has not announced whether it would return any money Sterling gave them, and the national chapter of the NAACP hasn't explained how and why Sterling, who has a history of charges of racism against him that extends beyond one leaked conversation, was awarded by the organization, which is dedicated to minority advancement. The NAACP now says it wants to talk with the NBA about diversity among basketball executives.
Earlier this week Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, while endorsing maximum punishment for Sterling, warned of a "very, very slippery slope" if the NBA started "making blanket statements about what people say and think," wondering whether the league was ready to punish people for homophobia, xenophobia, or religious bigotry. As Nick Gillespie noted:
One of the implications of Cuban's comments is that many players, coaches, and team owners would be in trouble if homophobia were raised to the level of racism as a disqualifying set of beliefs. Despite the recent announcement of an openly gay current player, the league is widely regarded as a hotbed of anti-gay animus. Cuban's point, which I think he makes with clarity and with the best of intentions, is that chasing out bad ideas is never as easy as it seems at first blush. Mark Cuban tweeted his support for Silver's decision. Sterling is the longest-tenured team owner with the NBA.