Sports

Sterling
 ban hailed across the US

NBA owners, sports stars back commissioner Silver for no-nonsense stand against racism

The NBA's lifetime ban of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was hailed as a watershed moment that would reverberate far beyond just basketball.

"I believe that today stands as one of those great moments where sports, once again, transcends, where sports provides a place for fundamental change on how our country should think and act," said former NBA player Kevin Johnson, the Sacramento mayor.

Johnson, who was drafted as a special adviser to the players association as the sport grappled with Sterling's racist remarks, added: "This is also a statement about where we are as a country.

"It doesn't matter if you're a professional basketball player worth millions of dollars or a man or woman who works hard for their family."

In addition to a lifetime ban from all games, team facilities and board meetings, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced he was fining Sterling US$2.5 million ($3.1m) and would urge the NBA Board of Governors to act according to their constitution to force a sale of the team.

Many owners promptly issued statements backing Silver. Sterling made no immediate comment.

It is by no means certain, however, whether the other owners will take the next step.

Some experts said Sterling's peers might be leery of action they felt could jeopardise their own property rights in the future.

Also unclear is whether Sterling will fight the ban in the court.

Sterling was forced out after two websites released audio recordings over the weekend of a voice said to be his, criticising a woman friend for "associating with black people." In it, he asks her not to invite former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin "Magic" Johnson to Clippers games.

News of the recordings drew outrage from players, fans, US President Barack Obama and commercial sponsors, several of whom said they were cutting ties with the team.

After the news of the ban, German sportswear firm Adidas reinstated their partnership with the Clippers.

Sterling, 80, is the longest-tenured of the NBA's 30 owners.

Some US news reports claim Sterling had said that he will not sell his basketball team.

REBUKE

If three-fourths of the owners vote to oust him, it would mark the strongest such rebuke of an NBA owner in league history and is almost unheard of in US pro sports.

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

Nathaniel Grow, a University of Georgia professor of sports law, said the NBA commissioner is "almost like a judge and executioner, and whatever he says goes".

The prospect of forcing Sterling to sell his team set off speculation about potential buyers. Billionaire media executive David Geffen is interested in acquiring the Clippers.

One of boxing's biggest names, five-division world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr, has also expressed interest.

Some of the NBA's biggest names used social media to praise Silver, who took over as NBA boss on Feb 1 upon the end of David Stern's 30-year tenure.

"Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league!!" Miami Heat superstar LeBron James said on Twitter. "Great leader!!"

"Current and former NBA players now know that in Commissioner Adam Silver we have a great leader leading our league," "Magic" Johnson said on Twitter.

Current Lakers star Kobe Bryant simply tweeted, "Bravo Silver." - AFP.


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 this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic league. Accordingly, effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life...

- NBA commissioner Adam Silver