Below is a select transcript of what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday in a press conference in New York in which he announced Clippers owner Donald Sterling would receive a life-time ban and a $2.5 million fine for making racially disparaging remarks on an audio tape.
Silver: Shortly after the release of an audio recording this past Saturday morning of a conversation that allegedly included Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the NBA commenced an investigation, which among other things, included an interview with Mr. Sterling. That investigation is now complete. The central findings of the investigation is that the man on his voice that is heard on the recording and on a second recording from the same conversation that was released on Sunday is Mr. Sterling. The hateful opinion voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling. 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 his kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic league. I’m personally distraught that the views by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in manners of race relations and cause former and current players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league. To them and pioneers of the game, like Early Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Sweet Water Clifton, the great Bill Russell and particularly, Magic Johnson, I apologize.
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, practices and he may not be present at any Clippers facility and may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings and participate in any other league activities. I am also fining Mr. Sterling $2.5 million, the maximum amount allowed under the NBA constitution. These funds will be donated to organizations of anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and the players association. As for Mr. Sterling’s ownership interest in the Clippers, I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise their authority to force a sale of the team and will do everything in my power to ensure that happens. This has been a painful moment for all members of the NBA family. I appreciate the support and understanding of this process. I am particularly grateful for the leadership shown by Coach Doc Rivers, union president Chris Paul and mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento acting as the player representative in this manner. We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views. They simply have no place in the NBA.
Question: Do you or any of your adversaries have any clue as to whether Mr. Sterling will act to your wishes to sell the team, or do you expect a fight?
Silver: I have no idea
Question: From polling the owners you have spoken to, what support do you think you have to force Mr. Sterling to sell the team?
Silver: I didn’t poll the owners. I spoke to several owners and I have their full support.
Question: What kind of authority do they have to force a sale?
Silver: The owners have authority subject to a 3/4 vote with the ownership groups and partners to remove him as an owner.
Question: The word you used was outraged. You said you were personally outraged. But many people believe they were outraged for years and people had known this man was a racist slumlord and the NBA hasn’t done anything until today. Can you please answer why?
Silver: I can’t speak to past actions other than to say when specific evidence was brought to the NBA, we acted.
Question: Should someone lose their team over remarks shared in private? Is this a slippery slope?
Silver: Whether or not these remarks are private, they are now public and they represent his views.
Question: What was the process to come to this decision the last couple of days? When did you decide that this was the appropriate action to take?
Silver: I ultimately decided this morning that this was the appropriate action. The process beginning Saturday morning when this tape was first released to appoint an investigator … He conducted a series of interviews, some by person and some by phone. He concluded his investigation late last night.
Question: You said you would encourage the force of the sale of the Clippers. When will that action take place?
Silver: The process will begin immediately. We will most likely use a standing committee of the NBA and equivalent of our advisory committee. I had several discussions with Glen Taylor, who is our chairman of the board and leader of our finance committee. We will begin that process immediately.
Question: With your conversations with Mr. Sterling, did he own up to this immediately? What if anything has he expressed regarding regret, remorse or anything? What’s his sentiment at this point?
Silver: Mr. Sterling acknowledged it was his voice on the tape. He has not acknowledged to me directly any other views.
Question: What message do you have to the Clippers and their fanbase in terms of moving forward?
Silver: My message to the Clippers fans is this league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach or any one player. This institution has been around for a long time and will stand for a long time. I have complete confidence in Doc Rivers and the basketball management of that club. The players deserve their support. They’ve been through an incredibly difficult incident in their lives.
Question: was the punishment designed in effect to get the message across to Mr. Sterling that there is no point in him and no advantages for him to gain in continuing his ownership? In determining the punishment would be, did you take into account his past behavior or was it based on one particular incident?
Silver: We did not take into account his past behavior. When the Board ultimately considers his overall fitness to be an owner in the NBA, they will take into account a lifetime of behavior.
Question: Can you explain for us and lay out for us what specific power in the constitutional by-laws you exercised with your ban?
Silver: I’ll let the lawyers lay out for you the specific provisions of our constitution. Let’s just leave it at that I have the authority to act as I recommended.
Question: Is the NBA considering more African American ownership at this point?
Silver: “We’re always open to ownership from people of all races, nationalities and ethnicities. We have an African American owner right now in Shaquille O’Neal, who just became a small owner of the Sacramento Kings. David Robinson is an owner of the San Antonio Spurs. Vivek Ranadive, a person of color and born in India, just became the owner of the Sacramento Kings. I believe we have a very diverse league. But I would always like to see the league become more diverse.
Question: What about Magic Johnson? Is that an option at this point?
Silver: Magic Johnson knows he’s always welcome as an owner in this league. He’s been a part owner in the past as the Los Angeles Lakers and has always been a welcome and close friend of the NBA family.
Question: Did you talk to any players about this decision? What about Clippers players if they do not want to play for a team owned by Donald Sterling anymore. Do they have a recourse?
Silver: I talked to several players before rendering my decision. Coincidentally, I had a trip planned this weekend. I was in Memphis for a game, I was in Oakland and in Portland Sunday night for games. I had a chance to talk directly to Chris Paul and spoke to other members of the team. I spoke extensively to Doc Rivers and Kevin Johnson has been representing the players interests. He and I have been talking multiple times a day. I believe the players will be satisfied with the decision and renderings that we made today. If a player in the future doesn’t want to play for the Los Angeles Clippers and he is under contract, we will deal with that when it happens. But that’s not my sense of where we are right now.
Question: Will this situation cause you moving forward to put new rules in place for owners in the NBA?
Silver: I’m not sure. We’re always willing to take a fresh look at our rules, constitution and by-laws. But I believe we have appropriate rules in place right now to cover a situation like this.
Question: You said when specific evidence was brought to the league, you did act. In past cases, has Donald Sterling been fined or suspended for any racial or offensive remarks. If not, why not?
Silver: He’s never been suspended or fined by the league because, although there have been well-documented rumors and cases filed, he was sued and the plaintiff lost the lawsuit. That was Elgin Baylor. There was a case brought by the Department of Justice, which ultimately Donald Sterling settled and there was no finding of guilt. Those were the only cases that were brought to our attention. When those two litigations were brought, they were followed closely by the league office.
Question: As a follow-up to that, one of the greatest players of all time, Elgin Baylor, accused Donald Sterling of running a plantation stlye franchise. Did that not concern you and why was that not investigated? Despite the fact that he lost the case, he has a prominent standing in the league and he said some pretty serious things.
Silver: It concerned us greatly. We followed the litigation closely. Ultimately, Elgin Baylor did not prevail in that litigation.
Question: What would you tell sponsors that have pulled out with the Clippers?
Silver: I would say those marketing partners of the Clippers and partners of the entire NBA should judge us by our response to this incident. I think we’ve responded appropriately. I am hopeful they would return into their business relationship with the Clippers.