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.
Commissioner Adam Silver said on Tuesday he will try to force the controversial owner to sell his franchise. Sterling has also been fined $2.5 million, and Silver made no effort to hide his outrage over the comments.
He said a league investigation found that the league’s longest-tenured owner was in fact the person on the audiotapes that were released over the weekend.
“We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views,” Silver said. “They simply have no place in the NBA.”
Sterling acknowledged he was the man on the tape, Silver said.
Sterling is immediately barred from attending any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.
He also cannot participate in any league business going forward.
“This league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach and any one player,” Silver said.
The 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.
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.
Before Silver took the podium, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted out a photo of the NBA Constitution, saying “It exists for a reason.”
The announcement of the sanctions came just hours before the Clippers will play Golden State in Game 5 of a knotted-up Western Conference first-round playoff series.
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 like Chris 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 when the tapes were released over the weekend represent just another chapter in Sterling’s long history of being at the center of controversy.
In the past, he’s 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.
He has also been sued in the past for sexual harassment by former employees, and even the woman who goes by the name “V. Stiviano” — purportedly the female voice on the tapes at the center of this scandal — 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.
NBA.com: Silver announces that NBA bans Clippers’ Sterling for life
As part of the lifetime ban, Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings and participating in any other league activity.
Clippers’ Sterling has long history of trouble
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Donald Sterling has been known to heckle his own team from the center-court seat where he has sat for decades, whether with his now-estranged wife or women young enough to be his granddaughters.
Former Los Angeles Clippers say the owner would barge into the locker room to berate players, offer awkward praise or — according to testimony in a lawsuit filed by his fired general manager — tell guests to check out his players’ “beautiful black bodies.”
The NBA’s longest-tenured owner is among the least successful in basketball history. He has watched the Clippers became a profitable punch line, compiling the worst record in North American pro sports during his first quarter-century in charge.
He has fired loyal coaches, waged court battles with long-serving executives and publicly seethed when players didn’t want to stay with the team.
And that’s only what Sterling does when the world can see him.
Opponents say the racially incendiary remarks attributed to Sterling and leaked to TMZ last weekend publicly show a side of the 80-year-old real-estate mogul that has been ignored and rationalized for years.
“It put a smile on my face that finally he would be unable to deny the racist allegations against him,” said Carl Douglas, a lawyer who represented former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor in a lawsuit against Sterling.
“This is a guy who, as the owner, sits courtside at the half-court line,” Douglas added. “No other owner sits like that. He has an ego the size of the Grand Canyon.”
Sterling has faced extensive federal charges of civil rights violations and racial discrimination in business, making shocking race-related statements in sworn testimony before reaching multimillion-dollar settlements. He has also been sued for sexual harassment by former employees, and the court proceedings detailed an outlandish list of Sterling’s personal proclivities.
Baylor, the former NBA great who served as the Clippers’ GM for 22 years, left the franchise with rancor and an unsuccessful lawsuit alleging race and age discrimination. Baylor claimed Sterling has a “plantation mentality” about the Clippers, envisioning a team of “poor black boys from the South playing for a white coach.”
“When I heard that voice (on the TMZ recordings), there was a visceral reaction,” said Douglas, who deposed Sterling during Baylor’s lawsuit. “I recognized the venom in that voice.”
Key details about woman on Sterling scandal audio
LOS ANGELES (AP) — For someone who loves to share photos of herself online, little is known about V. Stiviano other than that she is at the center of a scandal involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
The 31-year-old Los Angeles resident is being sued by Sterling’s wife, and has been identified as the woman heard on an audio recording of a racist diatribe attributed to the Clippers’ owner. With the NBA set to address the allegations against Sterling at a news conference on Tuesday, Stiviano remains a key figure in a scandal that started out on the websites TMZ and Deadspin and has since drawn the attention of league officials, sports stars who are calling for sanctions against Sterling, and President Barack Obama.
Here are some key details about Stiviano:
WHAT’S WITH THE NAME?
Stiviano was born Maria Vanessa Perez in October 1982 in Los Angeles, but successfully petitioned to change her name to V. Stiviano in 2010. There’s no explanation for what the name means, but her stated reason in the court filing was, “Born from a rape case and having yet been fully accepted because of my race.”
In the recorded conversation purported to be with Sterling, the woman identified by TMZ as Stiviano said she was of black and Mexican descent.
In March, Sterling’s wife, Rochelle, sued Stiviano, claiming she received more than $2.5 million in lavish gifts from the Clippers owner and they needed to be returned. A big piece of the suit involves a duplex Stiviano purchased in December for nearly $1.8 million with money that Rochelle Sterling claims Stiviano received from her husband. Stiviano’s name appears on the deed, and Rochelle Sterling is asking a judge to transfer the property to her and her husband.
In the filing, Rochelle Sterling accuses Stiviano of engaging “in conduct designed to target, befriend, seduce, and then entice, cajole, borrow from, cheat and/or receive as gifts transfers of wealth from wealthy older men whom she targets for such purpose.”
Stiviano’s attorney has filed documents to dismiss many of the lawsuit’s accusations and denies that Donald Sterling was taken advantage of. “Nowhere in the complaint is it alleged that defendant so acted nor that the feminine wiles of Ms. Stiviano overpowered the iron will of Donald T. Sterling who is well known as one of the most shrewd businessmen in the world.”
In 2012, Stiviano was charged with driving under the influence, but pleaded no contest to a reckless driving charge in July. Officials say there are no restrictions on her driving privileges at this time.
HOW SHE MAY HAVE MET STERLING
Rochelle Sterling’s lawsuit claims Stiviano met Sterling at the 2010 Super Bowl.
Since then, the pair have been in a relationship and Stiviano has received a Ferrari, two Bentleys and a Range Rover from the Clippers’ owner, the lawsuit alleges. The vehicles are worth more than $500,000 according to the suit.
PHOTO SHARING STARTED SCANDAL
Sterling’s and Stiviano’s alleged fight was apparently sparked by the businessman’s displeasure with Stiviano posting pictures of herself online with Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.
The Johnson photo has since been deleted from Stiviano’s Instagram account, where she boasted nearly 150,000 followers as of Monday evening. Several of her 200 photos include her posing in front of Clippers signs or with team memorabilia, including a pair of jerseys emblazoned with her last name.
Her bio lists her as an “artist, lover, writer, chef, poet, stylist, philanthropist.” The Los Angeles Times reported that Stiviano’s name appeared as the director of the Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation in an ad for a 2011 luncheon, however she is not listed as having an official role with the foundation in tax documents filed from 2010 to 2012.
ATTORNEY NO LONGER ANSWERING QUESTIONS
Stiviano’s attorney, Mac Nehoray, has said his client did not leak the audio of the conversation with Sterling, but he has said what’s been posted online is a snippet of a conversation lasting roughly an hour.
On Monday, a man who answered the phone at Nehoray’s law office wouldn’t identify himself and said the attorney would no longer comment on the audio or Stiviano’s case. He said the attorney was invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, citing a statement issued by the Clippers accusing Stiviano of embezzlement.
Los Angeles police say they are not investigating Stiviano or the audio’s release at this time.
Report compiled with information from The Associated Press.