Minutes ago Adam Silver, commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), announced that the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, is banned for life from all NBA games and facilities, including those he owns. The real estate magnate will also be required to pay $2.5 million in fines, the maximum allowed under NBA rules; and the organization is expected to force him to sell the team.
The ban comes just a few days after an audio tape was released to the media, in which Sterling makes a number of overtly racist comments to his African-American mistress. RedTea News detailed the tape's contents and provenance in a story published yesterday.
While some pundits have rushed to defend Sterling on free speech and privacy grounds, sports organizations like the NBA often enforce contracts on their athletes, owners, and employees promising harsh penalties if they perform any action, public or private, that may be construed as harming the league's brand or upsetting its fans.
Usually, owners of sports teams can be expelled for gambling on games, fixing games, or mismanaging finances. This unusual expulsion is based on Article 35 of the NBA Constitution, which allows Silver to indefinitely suspend owners for the vaguely-defined "conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the association."
The approval of three-quarters of the current NBA team owners is required to force Sterling to sell the Clippers. Such a vote is expected to take place, but it is unclear when. The team is believed to be worth about $800 million; Sterling purchased it in 1981 for $12.5 million.
Sterling has been in previous trouble with the NBA. In 1984 he moved the Clippers to Los Angeles without the NBA’s permission, and was hit with a $100 million fine, which was later reduced to $6 million.