Donald Sterling and the NBA


Randy Fazio

On April 25, 2014, a recording of a conversation between the Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling and a female friend, V. Stiviano was released. In the recording from September 2013, a man confirmed to be Sterling was irritated over a photo Stiviano had posted on Instagram, in which she posed with Basketball Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson. Sterling told Stiviano: “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people”, and, “You can sleep with black people. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want…the little I ask you is…not to bring them to my games.”

Sterling’s comments affected the NBA, a league that consists of mostly black players. On April 26, the team held a meeting to discuss the incident. Both coaches and players expressed anger toward the comments and they briefly raised the possibility of boycotting Game 4 of their series against the Golden State Warriors on April 27. Instead, players protested Sterling’s remarks by wearing their shirts inside-out during their pre-game huddle. The next day, players of the Miami Heat wore their uniform tops inside-out to show their support for the Clippers. LeBron James commented on the situation, “There’s no room for Donald Sterling in the NBA.”

The Los Angeles chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) cancelled its plans for the next month to award Sterling with its lifetime achievement award.President Barack Obama labeled the recording of Sterling as “incredibly offensive racist statements”. Chumash Casino, the Clipper’s biggest sponsor during the last few seasons, ended its relationship with the team, as did sponsors CarMax and Virgin America.

On April 29, 2014, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that Sterling had been banned from the league for life and fined $2.5 million, which is the maximum fine allowed by the NBA. Silver stripped Sterling of virtually all of his authority over the Clippers and banned him from entering any Clippers facility. Also, he was banned from attending any NBA games. Silver stated that he would try to force Sterling to sell the team.