ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. A stunning rebuke today for Donald Sterling. He is the embattled owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers. League commissioner Adam Silver announced the maximum possible punishment for Sterling who was recently caught on tape making racist remarks.
ADAM SILVER: Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA.
SIEGEL: On top of that, Sterling was fined and could lose his team. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman has more.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It was perhaps ironic that after a controversy that spread since Friday with warp speed, Adam Silver was 14 minutes late for today's press conference. But once he stepped to the lectern in New York City, Silver quickly asserted his plan to contain the spread: a lifetime ban for Donald Sterling, a $2.5 million fine - the maximum allowed, with the money going to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts. And then the hammer that surprised many.
SILVER: As for Mr. Sterling's ownership interest in the Clippers, I will urge the board of governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team, and will do everything in power to ensure that that happens.
GOLDMAN: Silver needs a three-fourths vote of the league's 30 owners. He was asked what happens if he doesn't get the necessary votes, could Sterling still profit from the team even though he's banned?
SILVER: I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him.
GOLDMAN: As part of the NBA's investigation of the audio tapes, Sterling was interviewed and he confirmed it was his voice on the tape, a voice admonishing a woman identified as his girlfriend, not to bring black people to Clippers games. Comments like that aren't isolated. There's a history of discrimination lawsuits against Sterling, and the scandal has raised questions about why the NBA didn't take action sooner. Silver essentially said the NBA followed the lead of the courts. In a Justice Department lawsuit against Sterling that was settled in 2009 without a finding of guilt and a wrongful termination and discrimination suit brought by former NBA great Elgin Baylor who claimed Sterling was running the team with, quote, "a plantation mentality."
SILVER: It concerned us greatly. We followed the litigation closely and ultimately Elgin Baylor did not prevail in that litigation.
GOLDMAN: That kind of answer is bound to leave some unsatisfied and wondering why the league didn't move to conduct its own investigation into Sterling, the longest tenured owner in the NBA. Still, the headline from today that Adam Silver acted quickly and decisively pleased many players. Hall of Famer Magic Johnson's photo on Instagram with Sterling's girlfriend prompted Sterling's comments on tape. Johnson said on Twitter current and former NBA players now know that in Commissioner Adam Silver we have a great leader leading our league. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former all star player who's been serving as a special adviser to the league's players' association, said all players are proud, and he called the decision a defining moment in the advancement of civil rights.
MAYOR KEVIN JOHNSON: I hope that every bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so can you.
GOLDMAN: Johnson said the league and NBA owners need to move ahead as swiftly as possible in forcing the sale of the Clippers. Tonight, the team has a home game against Golden State in their first round playoff series. It's a game in which both teams, especially the Clippers, now can focus on basketball, to Adam Silver's and NBA fans' great relief. Tom Goldman. NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.