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Fellow NBA owners will decide if Donald Sterling must sell Clippers

Updated: June 1, 2014 6:43AM

Donald Sterling was wiped from the NBA on Tuesday: banned for life, fined $2.5 million and, if three-quarters of league owners agree, forced to sell his Los Angeles Clippers.

One of sports’ strongest punishments ever was prompted by mistress V. Stiviano’s audio recording, released Saturday, on which the league’s longest-tenured owner spouted racist sentiments.

Sterling admitted to NBA investigators that he was on the recording, commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday in a news conference.

The league moved to ban him, hoping to return the sport to normalcy and stop the stampede of sponsors fleeing from the Clippers.

Sterling cannot attend games or practices or even be in a Clippers facility. He can’t make business or personnel decisions or take part in league business.

His fine will go toward charities that promote tolerance.

“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver said. “That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage — and my personal outrage.”

Forcing Sterling to sell the team requires a three-quarters majority vote by his fellow owners.

The process will “start immediately,” Silver said.

A statement by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and president Michael Reinsdorf said the Bulls “support [Silver’s] recommendation to press for Mr. Sterling to relinquish his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise,” and that the decision “reflects the best interests of the NBA and public civility.”

Former Bulls star and current Bobcats owner Michael Jordan said in a statement that Silver “sent a powerful message that there can be zero tolerance for racism and hatred in the NBA.”

The commissioner met with players, coaches, executives and owners — including Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers — during the last few days.

“I spoke to several owners,” Silver said, “and I have their full support.”

The league “did the right thing,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said before Game 5 of the Bulls’ playoff series against the Wizards at the United Center.

“It’s a strong statement by the league, and it needed to be made,” he said. “I think the way the league responded was the correct way — and I think everyone’s pleased with what the commissioner did.”

In agreement is Wizards coach Randy Wittman, who spoke with his friend Rivers during the controversy.

“There’s no place for [racism],” he said. “Forget about if it’s the NBA: There’s no place for that in society today.”

The sports world, and beyond, was outraged when Sterling was recorded criticizing Stiviano for posting Instagram pictures of herself with African-Americans, including former Lakers star Magic Johnson.

Sterling said of black players: “I support them and give them food and clothes and cars and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have … Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners that created the league?”

Those owners now control the fate of Sterling’s franchise, though his face never will be shown in the league again.


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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