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Until just a few days ago the US National Basketball Association looked in great shape with the playoffs going famously and with new Commissioner Adam Silver settling in well to the job he just started on February 1st, 2014.
Then an audio tape turned up of Donald Stirling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, appearing to utter very bad racist comments which has thrown the league and the postseason of the NBA into huge uncertainty. The Clippers players also voted with their feet in the last game they played, visibly slowing down to a crawl during the game as an expression of their own disgust with their owner’s remarks.
So the question then on everybody’s lips was what would Adam Silver do about it in this, his first NBA crisis since taking over from his long time boss former commissioner David Stern. Well now we know exactly, from a press conference he has just given earlier today, and he has indeed acted decisively.
Commissioner Adam Silver has now banned Donald Sterling for life from any association with the Los Angeles Clippers or the NBA, it was announced today at the press conference in Manhattan.
Commissioner Silver has also fined Mr. Sterling US$2.5 million, the maximum amount allowed under the NBA Constitution. The fine money will be donated to organisations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and the Players Association.
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.
Commissioner Silver also announced that he will urge the Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team – which takes a 75% vote of the owners. Specifically he clarified that, “I spoke to several owners, and I have their full support. …The owners have the authority, subject to a three-quarters vote, to remove him as an owner.”
Adam Silver concluded that Mr. Sterling violated league rules through his expressions of offensive and hurtful views, the impact of which has been widely felt throughout the league.
Silver was also asked if the Clippers owner had expressed any remorse for his racist statements, and Silver said, “Sterling acknowledged that it was his voice on his tape, but has not expressed to me directly any other views.”
Sterling drew intense criticism after an audio recording turned up of a phone conversation, which appeared to show the octogenarian team owner telling his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, that he didn’t want her to bring black people to Clippers’ home games or post photos of black people on her Instagram account, rightly leading to pretty much universal condemnation from across all sides of the American social spectra.
According to the LA Times, the conversation itself has some roots in a separate law suit between Sterling’s girl friend, V. Stiviano (V stands for Vanessa), and Sterling’s wife, Rochelle Sterling.
Almost 50 years younger than him Stiviano was sued last month by Rochelle, who seeks the return of her US$1.8-million Los Angeles duplex as well as a Ferrari, two Bentleys and a Range Rover she said her husband bought for Stiviano.
Rochelle Sterling apparently claims in the lawsuit that her husband met Stiviano at the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami. The suit goes on to describe Stiviano, 31, as a seductress who targets wealthy older men like the 80-year-old Sterling.
In her own response to the lawsuit, Stiviano argues that Rochelle Sterling must have known that her husband of more than 50 years had romantic relationships outside of their marriage.
The phone conversation itself, which someone must have tapped into to get hold of it, appears to relate to a photograph that Stiviano had posted on Instagram of herself with the famous Lakers player Magic Johnson. A male voice said to be Sterling then asks the woman on the other end of the phone, purported to be Stiviano, not to publicly associate with African Americans. The woman then seems to tease with the man, saying that she herself is black and Mexican.
This then seems to have been the conversation in question, one that Sterling has indeed not denied was his voice to Adam Silver and, if so, it is a very tawdry end to the reputation of a man even though he has been thought to have had racist tendencies for a long time, just not quite so blatantly caught out.
About Adam Silver
Prior to assuming the role of NBA Commissioner in February , Silver held five positions at the NBA, which he joined in 1992, all working directly for former Commissioner David Stern.
Silver has helped establish the NBA as one of the world’s preeminent sports leagues, as a model for global sports marketing organisations, and as one of the largest providers of sports programming in the world.
He has been instrumental in many league accomplishments including playing a key role in the negotiations of the league’s last two television agreements, the last three collective bargaining agreements with the National Basketball Players Association, the development of the WNBA and NBA Development League, the partnership with Turner Broadcasting to jointly manage the NBA’s digital assets, and the creation of NBA China.
In addition to serving on the boards of NBA China and the Lustgarten Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, Silver is a member of the University of Chicago Law School Visiting Committee.
Prior to joining the NBA, Silver was a litigation associate at the New York law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he concentrated on media and antitrust cases. He also served as a law clerk to Federal District Court Judge Kimba Wood in New York. Silver graduated from Duke University and the University of Chicago Law School.