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NBA Bans Clippers Owner Sterling for Life, What's Next?

By Steve Almasy and Ashley Fantz CNN | 4/29/2014, 3:55 p.m.
Basketball Commissioner Adam Silver slapped Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban from the sport and a ...
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Tuesday, April 29, 2014, that LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling is banned for life and being fined $2.5 million for his racist remarks. CNN photo.

The NBA's commissioner came down hard Tuesday on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, ordering him out of his team's business and pushing to force him to sell over racist remarks that caused a firestorm since becoming public days ago.

Adam Silver detailed Sterling's punishment of a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine -- the "maximum amount" allowed per league guidelines -- at a press conference eight hours before Sterling's Clippers were to tip off in the fifth game of a tightly contested first-round playoff series with the Golden State Warriors.

His decision was met with immediate support from NBA owners, players and others connected to the league who have been calling for swift, firm punishment ever since TMZ posted audio featuring the incendiary comments.

"I hope that every bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so can you," Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star who was tasked with leading the NBA players union's efforts on this matter.

Under the lifetime ban, Sterling is prohibited from attending games or practices, stepping foot inside any Clippers' facility, taking part in business or personnel decisions, or having a role in league activities such as attending NBA Board of Governors meetings.

Silver also insisted he will do "everything in my power" to compel the NBA Board of Governors to "force a sale" of the Clippers. The commissioner said "I fully expect" to get the needed three-quarters of the league's owners -- meaning at least 23 -- to back the move, though Sterling could fight any such move in court.

If Sterling does sell the team, he stands to profit considerably: He bought the Clippers for $12 million in 1981, and the team is now worth $575 million, according to Forbes magazine. And he'd likely have plenty of suitors: Among them is Hollywood mogul David Geffen, who spokeswoman Priscila Giraldo says is "interested" in buying the team.

Gabe Feldman, the head of Tulane University's sports law program, told CNN he thinks the franchise may be worth closer to $1 billion. NBA owners may let Sterling reap a windfall if it means getting rid of him, said Feldman.

Rather than water cooler discussions of exciting NBA playoff action, people are talking about racist remarks by a team owner, said Feldman. "He may get a lot of money from the sale, but I think it will allow the NBA to shift their focus."

Silver, who succeeded longtime NBA leader David Stern in February, called the comments that provoked the punishment "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, multicultural and multi-ethnic league," Silver said.

Clippers: 'Now the healing process begins'

The inflammatory sentiments he was referring to came packaged in a 10-minute recording that TMZ said occurred during an April 9 conversation between Sterling and girlfriend V. Stiviano.