Donald Sterling receives lifetime ban

Updated: April 30, 2014, 2:05 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA in response to racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he will try to force the controversial owner to sell his franchise. Sterling also was fined $2.5 million, and Silver made no effort to hide his outrage over the comments.

"I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him," Silver said.

The rebuke, which came three days after the scandal broke, is the harshest penalty ever issued by the league and one of the stiffest punishments ever given to an owner in professional sports.

Silver said a league investigation found the NBA's longest-tenured owner was in fact the person on the incendiary audiotapes released over the weekend.

"We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling's views," Silver said. "They simply have no place in the NBA."

Silver said Sterling acknowledged he was the man on the tape.

Sterling is immediately barred from attending NBA games or practices, being present at any Clippers office or facility, or participating in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He also cannot participate in any league business going forward.

It's unclear how Sterling will respond, and a lawsuit certainly seems possible.

Sterling's lawyer, Robert Platt, declined comment when asked by ESPN whether Sterling would dispute or respond to the league's actions.

"This league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach and any one player," Silver said.

A team source told ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne that the Clippers expect to work closely with the NBA to determine who will run the franchise.

The woman on the recording, who goes by the name V. Stiviano, cooperated with the NBA, as did a third person who was in the room when the tapes were made, another source told Shelburne. The woman verified to the league that it was her and Sterling on the tapes, according to the source.

Stiviano's lawyer, Mac Nehoray, told the L.A. Times his client didn't have a sexual or romantic relationship with Sterling, "never wanted any harm to Donald" and is "very saddened" by Silver's decision.

The recordings that have been released were made in September, and Sterling knew he was being recorded, the source told Shelburne. Stiviano has several additional hours of audio and video recordings of Sterling, according to the source.

Stiviano's attorney told the L.A. Times that his client didn't release the tape and that "someone released it for money."

Sterling's $2.5 million fine will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and the players' association, Silver said.

"This has all happened in three days, and so I am hopeful there will be no long-term damage to the league and to the Clippers organization," Silver said. "But as I said earlier, I'm outraged, so I certainly understand other people's outrage. This will take some time, and appropriate healing will be necessary."

After the announcement, the Clippers' website had a simple message: "We are one."

"We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver today. Now the healing process begins," the Clippers added in a statement released to the media.

Prior to their Game 5 against the Warriors, Clippers coach Doc Rivers addressed the media and praised Silver's decision to ban Sterling.

"I thought Adam Silver today was fantastic. He made a decision that really was the right one that had to be made," Rivers said. "I don't think this is something we rejoice in or anything like that. I told the players about the decision and I think they were just happy there was a resolution and it's over or at least the start of it. I was just really proud of them and I've been proud of the players in the NBA overall, I've been proud of the ownership throughout the league and I think we're all in a better place because of this."

The league's investigation started Saturday, and players immediately began expressing intense displeasure with the situation, even going so far as to ask Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to get involved on behalf of the players' union. Johnson is acting liaison for the National Basketball Players Association.

Chris Paul, the Clippers' All-Star point guard and the president of the players' union, issued a brief statement before leading Los Angeles against the Warriors on Tuesday night.

"In response to today's ruling by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, my teammates and I are in agreement with his decision," Paul said. "We appreciate the strong leadership from Commissioner Silver and he has our full support."

The penalties issued against Sterling drew an immediate reaction from players, teams and executives around the NBA.

Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who was mentioned in the audio recording, took to Twitter to voice his support for Silver's ruling.

Johnson's role on the tapes stemmed from Stiviano apparently posting a photo of her and the Hall of Famer on her Instagram account. That photo has since been deleted, but it raised Sterling's ire nonetheless.

"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?" Sterling asks the woman on the tape.

Silver said when he first heard the audio that he hoped it had been altered or was fake -- but also said that from his 20-year relationship with Sterling that he suspected the voice was his.

Though on Monday he said kicking Sterling out of the league could be a "slippery slope," Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted his approval of Silver's Tuesday ruling.

Johnson, the former Phoenix Suns star, said at a separate news conference Tuesday that he is proud of the league's decision.

"Adam Silver is not only the owner's commissioner; he's the player's commissioner," Johnson said.

There was universal praise of Silver's decision from the NBA's owners, with Joe Lacob, whose Golden State Warriors play the Clippers on Tuesday night in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series, saying, "We applaud the firm punishment handed out today by NBA commissioner Adam Silver and appreciate the swiftness with which the NBA conducted its investigation. ... We cannot tolerate such feelings or beliefs, not only in the NBA, but in society in general. There is absolutely no room for racism in our world, period."

Silver This has all happened in three days, and so I am hopeful there will be no long-term damage to the league and to the Clippers organization. But as I said earlier, I'm outraged, so I certainly understand other people's outrage. This will take some time, and appropriate healing will be necessary.

-- NBA commissioner Adam Silver

Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago Bulls became the first owner to publicly state that he plans to vote in favor of Sterling's dismissal.

"The commissioner was correct to ban Mr. Sterling from all official NBA business, to levy the stiffest allowable fine, and we will support his recommendation to press for Mr. Sterling to relinquish his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise," Reinsdorf said in a statement.

The NAACP, which recently rescinded a lifetime achievement award intended for Sterling, also applauded the league's sanctions.

"The NAACP is pleased the NBA is taking swift and strong action against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist and offensive remarks," the statement said. "Their decision to ban Mr. Sterling indefinitely from the league, seek his removal from ownership and fine him $2.5 million -- the maximum amount under NBA rules -- is both welcomed and supported.

"The alleged statements made by Mr. Sterling were deplorable and cannot be tolerated. Bigotry and hatred have no place in the NBA or any other arena of our society."

The tapes with Sterling's comments were released over the weekend by TMZ and Deadspin, and numerous NBA owners and players have condemned them. Even President Barack Obama weighed in on the crisis, the first of Silver's brief tenure as commissioner.

The announcement of the sanctions came just hours before Game 5. The Clippers now lead, 3-2, after Tuesday night's victory.

The Clippers did not watch Silver's news conference because they were conducting a morning shootaround, the team source told Shelburne.

"We are so locked in on the Warriors, we didn't watch [the news conference]," the source said. "We were finishing shootaround. ... We got a game."

Several sponsors either terminated or suspended their business dealings with the team on Monday, though individual deals that some of those companies have with Clippers stars such as Paul and Blake Griffin will continue and were not affected. Still, it was a clear statement that companies, like just about everyone inside the league, were outraged.

The issues raised on the tapes represent just another chapter in Sterling's long history of being at the center of controversy.

He has faced extensive federal charges of civil rights violations and racial discrimination in his business dealings, and some of his race-related statements would be described as shocking.

Sterling also has been sued for sexual harassment by former employees, and Stiviano describes Sterling in court documents as a man "with a big toothy grin brandishing his sexual prowess in the faces of the paparazzi and caring less what anyone else thought, the least of which, his own wife."

Stiviano is being sued by Rochelle Sterling, who is seeking to reclaim at least $1.8 million in cash and gifts that her husband allegedly provided the woman.

ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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