Donald Sterling punishment: Adam Silver sets impressive tone with lifetime ban

NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a press conference. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a press conference. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

Just before the 2:00 pm press conference for NBA commissioner Adam Silver got underway, word began to leak out that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been indefinitely suspended and fined $5 million as a result of his controversial and racially motivated comments. Because of the nature of the actual comments, nothing seemed unreasonable or out of bounds with regard to punishment, but with the unknown nature of the NBA by-laws and what exactly Adam Silver and his peers could do in reaction, there was a great deal of anticipation for the announcement.

Then, the announcement came and the leaked reports were blown out of the water.

Commissioner Silver stepped to the podium in front of a packed house and unceremoniously banned Donald Sterling for life in addition to instituting a maximum fine of $2.5 million. That ban includes a full exclusion from attending games and practices, being present at any NBA facility, participating in any business or player personnel decisions, and acting as a member of the NBA Board of Governors.

When dealing with that ban in its own right, this is an incredibly strong maneuver from the commissioner’s office, and one that is easy to support. Popular opinion, both inside and outside of the league, rests on the side of there being “no place in the NBA” for Donald Sterling, and this swift decision exercises that immediately.

Of course, there is significant fallout from the ban, simply because of the fact that Sterling is, at this moment, the owner of the franchise, and thus, has a significant financial and business interest in its progress.

In response to that, Silver expressed that he will strongly urge the NBA Board of Governors (made up of the 30 owners) to force the sale of the Clippers franchise, and the commissioner stated that he “will do everything in his power to assure that it happens.” The aforementioned fine of $2.5 million has been levied immediately (and it represents the maximum amount allowed under the NBA constitution), but Sterling’s financial interests have extended fallout despite the ban. Silver stated that the Board of Governors would have to accumulate a three-fourths majority in order to remove Sterling as an owner, but until that occurs, Sterling cannot be forced to sell the team, as the lifetime ban is independent of that action.

Donald Sterling is (or was) the longest tenured owner in the National Basketball Association, and that is jarring in its own right.

However, the new face of the NBA has brought a strong hand to his first high-profile situation, and that is extremely encouraging for the league’s future under Adam Silver’s direction. The commissioner plainly stated that the NBA is “far bigger than any one owner” when providing support to Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers, and I can’t imagine a scenario in which 22 of the other 29 NBA owners did not agree with that sentiment in removing Sterling as a partner and placing the team up for sale.

Rumors of billionaire groups led by Magic Johnson and others will begin to swirl as the league looks for a new step for its second Los Angeles franchise, but Adam Silver’s swift movement to remove Donald Sterling could set the tone for an impressive reign as the man in charge.