Three months into his new position as NBA commissioner, Adam Silver forged from former commissioner David Stern’s considerable legacy Tuesday, leveling a landmark decision in banning from the league for life Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was recorded using vile, anti-Black comments on an audio recording by his girlfriend.
At the same time, Silver’s strength was magnified when juxtaposed with the Los Angeles NAACP, which was prepared to honor the disgraced Sterling, who has a history of racial issues, with a second lifetime achievement award.
Conversely, Silver also fined Sterling, 80, the maximum allowed under the NBA constitution and bylaws –$2.5 million — and recommended that the NBA’s Board of Governors vote to have Sterling sell the franchise he purchased in 1981 for $17 million. The team is now worth up to $600 million.
The money from the fine, the league announced, will be donated to anti-discrimination and tolerance organizations that will be jointly selected by the NBA and the Players Association.
“The central findings of the investigation are that the man whose voice is heard on the recording and on a second recording from the same conversation — that was released on Sunday — is Mr. Sterling, and that the hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling,” Silver said in a press conference in New York City. “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 multicultural and multiethnic league.
“Accordingly, effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA. Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices, he may not be present at any Clippers facility, and he may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.”
It was a blockbuster, landmark decision by Silver, who said Sterling did not express any remorse or regret when he spoke to him.
At the same time, the L.A. chapter of the NAACP has been under scrutiny for accepting donations from Sterling and honoring him once and planning to honor him a second time on May 15 — even though Sterling had a history of discriminating against Blacks who were interested in renting his apartments, twice settling lawsuits for $7 million.
Embarrassed, the NAACP has said it is returning money Sterling donated and has rescinded its award. Leon Jenkins, president of the L.A. chapter, said: “The revelation that Mr. Sterling may have made comments in a phone conversation that was reminiscent of the ugly time in American history that contained elements of segregation and racial discrimination demands that the Los Angeles NAACP intention to honor Mr. Sterling for a lifetime body of work must be withdrawn and the donation that he has given to the Los Angeles NAACP will be returned.
“There is a personal, economic and social price that Mr. Sterling must pay for his attempt to turn back the clock on race relations.”
Sterling already had been given a lifetime achievement award by the L.A. chapter in 2009 – the same year he agreed to pay a $2.765 million settlement in a case that alleged he discriminated against African-Americans, Latinos and others at apartment buildings he owned in Los Angeles County.
In an interview Monday on ESPN radio, Alice Huffman, president of the California branch of the NAACP, said she was surprised Sterling was about to be honored again.
“I thought to myself, ‘A second lifetime award? That’s kind of unusual. He hasn’t died and come back to life. He already has one lifetime award. Why the second one?’ And then this story broke,” Huffman said.
Silver’s firm decisions were welcomed around the NBA world. Magic Johnson, who was thrust into the center of the controversy because Sterling’s girlfriend V. Stiviano posed in a photo on Instagram with the basketball legend, posted on Twitter: “Former and current NBA players are very happy and satisfied with Commissioner Silver’s ruling.”
LeBron James of the Miami Heat placed on Twitter: “Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league!! Great leader!!”