NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced today that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling will be banned for life from association with the Clippers or the NBA after being caught on tape making racist remarks to his girlfriend. Sterling will be prohibited from attending NBA games or owners' meetings, or from making any basketball decisions. In addition, Sterling will be hit with a $2.5 million fine — the maximum allowed by the league constitution.
Silver also said he will urge Sterling's fellow owners to vote to force him to sell the team, but that he lacks the authority to take that step on his own. Taking that step would require the support of 75 percent of NBA owners.
Silver said the NBA has reviewed the tape and found no evidence that it was altered or that the voice on the tape was anyone other than Sterling.
The commissioner is able to take these actions under authority granted to him by the NBA Constitution to penalize "conduct that is detrimental or prejudicial" to the NBA. The closest precedent is probably the case of former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott who was suspended in 1993 for racist conduct and, according to Sports Illustrated, "barred from making baseball or business decisions affecting the Reds."
While banned, decision-making would presumably be in the hands of Clippers coach and VP of Basketball Operations Doc Rivers, an African-American who has suggested he won't be back with the team next year if it's still in Sterling's hands.
It seems very unlikely that Sterling's critics — including the Clippers players, Rivers, the president of the United States, major stars like LeBron James, and the NBA's only African-American owner (Michael Jordan) — will be mollified by any resolution that leaves Sterling in charge of the team.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that former LA Lakers star Magic Johnson and the investment group Guggenheim Partners are likely to be first in line to try to buy the team.
Meanwhile, the Clippers are supposed to play the Golden State Warriors tonight in Los Angeles at 10:30 Eastern time.