NBA imposes life ban on Sterling

NBA imposes life ban on Sterling

The NBA banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from professional basketball for life on Tuesday and fined him $2.5 million in an unprecedented rebuke for racist comments that drew outrage from players, fans, commercial sponsors and even President Barack Obama.

Sterling, 80, the longest-tenured owner of any of the 30 National Basketball Association teams, will be barred from any role in the operations of his franchise or from serving as one of the league's governors, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told a news conference in New York. 

Silver also urged the other owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, a first-time use of such a sanction that would require approval of three-quarters of the current owners.

Asked whether Sterling could end up as essentially an absentee owner if the league fails to force a sale of the team, Silver replied, "I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him."

The controversy, which quickly grew into a national discussion of race relations transcending basketball, began over the weekend when the celebrity website released an audio recording with a voice said to be Sterling's, criticizing a woman friend for associating with "black people."

In it, he asks her not to invite former LA Lakers star Earvin "Magic" Johnson to Clippers games. "The views expressed by Mr Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful," Silver said.

An investigation concluded the male voice on the recording, and on a second recording said to be from the same conversation and made public on Sunday, was Sterling's, Silver told reporters. He said Sterling confirmed it was his voice but did not apologize.

Silver said he felt "personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr Sterling came from within" a league at the forefront of racial integration in American sports and where most of the players are black.

Obama, the first black US president, called Sterling's comments "incredibly offensive racist statements."

It was not immediately clear whether Sterling would seek to challenge the ban in court.

But lawyers with expertise in sports law gave him little chance of successfully suing the NBA, citing league governance rules that all owners must accept.