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NBA Press Conference Regarding Donald Sterling

Aired April 29, 2014 - 14:14   ET


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: Thank you all for being here. I apologize for starting a little bit late.

Shortly after the release of an audio recording this past Saturday morning of a conversation that allegedly included Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the NBA commenced an investigation which among other things included an interview of Mr. Sterling. That investigation is now complete. The central findings of the investigation are that the man whose voice is heard on the recording, and on a second recording from the same conversation that was released on Sunday, is Mr. Sterling, and that the hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling.

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. I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and caused current and former players, coaches, fans, and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league. To them, and pioneers of the game, like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Sweetwater Clifton, the great Bill Russell, and particularly Magic Johnson, I apologize.

Accordingly, effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization, or the NBA. Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers facility, and he may not participate in any business where player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA board of governors meetings, or participating in any other league activity.

I am also fining Mr. Sterling $2.5 million, the maximum amount allowed under the NBA constitution. These funds will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and its Players Association.

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 my power to ensure that that happens.

This has been a painful moment for all members of the NBA family. I appreciate the support and understanding of our players during this process. And I am particularly grateful for the leadership shown by Coach Doc Rivers, Union President Chris Paul, and Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, who has been acting as the players' representative in this matter. We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling's views. They simply have no place in the NBA.

Thank you, and I'll take any questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take questions now. We'll start with Scott in the back right.


Do you or any of your emissaries have any clue as to whether Mr. Sterling will acquiesce to your wishes to sell the team or do you expect a fight?

SILVER: I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take the next question right here, Rachel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From polling the owners that you've spoken to, what support do you think you have to force Mr. Sterling to sell the team?

SILVER: I didn't poll the owners. I spoke to several owners. And I have their full support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the right, Brian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adam, Brian Hoke (ph) from the Associated Press. What kind of authority do they have to force a sale?

SILVER: The owners have the authority, subject to three-quarters vote, of the ownership groups of the partners to remove him as an owner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifth row in the middle.

LISA GUERRERO, INSIDE EDITION: Hi, I'm Lisa Guerrero with Inside Edition. The word you used specifically was "outrage." You said that you were personally outraged, yet many people believe that they are outraged that for years people have known that this man is a racist, slum lord, and the NBA hasn't done anything until today. Can you please answer why?

SILVER: I can't speak to past actions other than to say that when specific evidence was brought to the NBA, we acted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Over here, second row on the left.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) with Fox News, "The Kelly File." Should someone lose their team for remarks shared in private? Is this a slippery slope?

SILVER: Whether or not these remarks were initially shared in private, they are now public and they represent his views. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifth row in the middle, Tim. Get a microphone there, please.

TIM BONTEMPS, "THE NEW YORK POST": Tim Bontemps (ph) from "The New York Post." Adam, what was the process to come into this decision over the last couple days, and when did you decide that, you know, this was the appropriate action to take?

SILVER: I ultimately decided this morning that this was the appropriate action, and the process beginning Saturday morning when this first -- when this tape was first released was to appoint an investigator. It was David Anders (ph) from the Wachtell Lipton (ph) firm. He conducted a series of interviews, some by phone, some in person. He concluded his investigation late last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventh row on the left, Jeff. Let's give the microphone to Jeff, please. No, Jeff, right there. Seventh row on the left.

JEFF ZILLGITT (ph), "USA TODAY": Jeff Zillgitt, "USA Today." Adam, you said you would encourage owners to force the sale of the Clippers. When will that action take place?

SILVER: The process will begin immediately. We will most likely use a standing committee of the NBA. Are -- the equivalent of our executive committee is our advisory finance committee. I've had several discussions with Glen Taylor, who is our chairman of the board, and also the leader of the advisory finance committee. And we will begin that process immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Third row on the end, Howard.

HOWARD BECK, BLEACHER REPORT: Howard Beck of Bleacher Report. Adam, did -- in your conversations with Sterling, did he own up to this immediately? Was it only after you guys had come up with some sort of proof? And then what, if anything, has he expressed approaching remorse, regret, anything? What's his sentiment at this point?

SILVER: Mr. Sterling acknowledged it was his voice on the tape. And he has not expressed to me directly any other views.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We'll go right here, please.

ANDREW ROSARIO UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Andrew Rosario (ph) of (INAUDIBLE) right here. What message do you have for the Clippers and their fans and their fan base in terms of moving forward from this point on?

SILVER: My message to the Clippers fans is this league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach, any one player. This institution has been around for a long time, and it will stand for a long time. And I have complete confidence in Doc Rivers, in the basketball management of that club, and the players deserve their support. They've just been through an incredibly difficult incident in their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On your left, Harvey. Over against the wall, Adam. HARVEY ARATON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Adam, Harvey Araton, "The New York Times." Was the punishment designed in effect to get the message across to Mr. Sterling that there's no point in him (ph), there's no advantage, there's no -- nothing to be gained from him continuing his ownership? And also, in determining what the punishment would be, including the suggestion to the board of governors, did you take into account Mr. Sterling's past behavior, or was it just based on this one particular incident?

SILVER: In meting out this punishment, we did not take into account his past behavior. When the board ultimately considers his overall fitness to be an owner in the NBA, they will take into account a lifetime of behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifth row in the middle, Ken.

KEN BERGER, CBSSPORTS.COM: Ken Burger from Adam, could you just explain, or lay out for us what specific power in the constitution and bylaws you exercise with your ban, and what specific -- was it a broad violation or a specific violation? And with respect to the forced sale, what specific section of the constitution covers that, and is that a broad violation or a specific one?

SILVER: Ken, I'll let the lawyers lay out for you the specific provisions of our constitution. Let's just leave it we have the authority to act as I've recommended.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighth row in the back, please.

STEPHANIE STEPP, HARLEM COMMUNITY RADIO: Commissioner, Stephanie Stepp from Harlem Community Radio. Is the NBA considering more African- American ownership at this point?

SILVER: Sorry, where am I looking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighth row in the back in the middle.

SILVER: I'm sorry. Sorry, could you repeat the question?

STEPP: Sure. Stephanie Stepp from Harlem Community Radio. Is the NBA considering more African-American ownership at this point?

SILVER: We're always open to ownership from people of all races, nationalities, ethnicities. As you know, we have an African-American primary owner in the league right now. Shaquille O'Neal just became a small owner of the Sacramento Kings. David Robinson is an owner of the San Antonio Spurs. Vivek Ranadive, a person of color, born in Mumbai, India, just became the primary owner of the Sacramento Kings. So, I believe we have a very diverse league, but I'd always like to see it become even more diverse.

STEPP: What about Magic Johnson? Is that an option at this point?

SILVER: Magic Johnson knows he's always welcome as an owner in this league. He's been a part owner in the past of the Los Angeles Lakers and he's always welcome, and a close friend of the NBA family. STEPP: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On your left, Adam, over -

MAGGIE GRAY, SI.COM: Maggie Gray from Did you talk to any of the players before you came to this decision? And what about the Clippers players, if they do not want to play for a team owned by Donald Sterling anymore, do they have any recourse?

SILVER: I talked to several players before rendering my decision. Coincidentally, I had had a trip planned for this weekend. I was in Memphis for a game. I was in Oakland. And then I was in Portland Sunday night for games. I had a chance to talk directly to Chris Paul. I spoke to other members of the team. I spoke extensively to Doc Rivers. And as I said, Kevin Johnson has been representing the players' interests. And he and I have been talking multiple times a day. So I believe the players will be satisfied with the decision, and the renderings that we've made today. If a player in the future doesn't want to play for the Los Angeles Clippers and he's under contract, we'll deal with that when it happens. But that's not my sense of where we are right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back on the left, by the cameras.

KELSEY KNIGHT (ph), THE INSIDER: Hi. Kelsey Knight from The Insider. Will this situation cause you moving forward to put new rules in place for owners from the NBA?

SILVER: I'm not sure. I mean we're always willing to take a fresh look at our rules, our constitution and bylaws. But I believe we have appropriate rules in place right now to cover a situation like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Second row on the left, Ian.

IAN O'CONNOR, ESPN NEW YORK: Adam, Ian O'Connor, ESPN New York. Just to be clear, you said when specific evidence was brought to the league, you did act. So in past cases, has Donald Sterling ever been fined or suspended for racial or offensive remarks? And if not, why not?

SILVER: He's never been suspended or fined by the league because, while there have been well documented rumors and cases filed, he was sued, and the plaintiff lost the lawsuit. That was Elgin Baylor. There was a case brought by the Department of Justice in which ultimately Donald Sterling settled and there was no finding of guilt. And those are the only cases that have been brought to our attention. And when those -- when that -- those two litigations were brought, they were followed closely by the league office.

O'CONNOR: Just to follow up to that. One of the greatest players of all-time, Elgin Baylor, accused Donald Sterling of running a plantation style franchise. Did that not concern you? And why was that not investigated? Despite the fact that he lost the case, he has a prominent standing in the league and he said some very serious things.

SILVER: It concerned us greatly. We followed the litigation closely. And ultimately, Elgin Baylor did not prevail in that litigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Second row right on the right side here, Adam.

BRANDON ROBINSON, THE SOURCE MAGAZINE: Commissioner Silver, Brandon Robinson, The Source Magazine. Obviously CarMax and State Farm withdrew their sponsorship with the L.A. Clippers. As you as the commissioner of the NBA, what would you tell other people who are maybe on the fence or people who have withdrawn to want to in the future invest in one of your franchise of the L.A. Clippers?

SILVER: I would say that those marketing partners of the Clippers and partners of the entire NBA should judge us by our response to this incident. And I think we've responded appropriately. And I would be hopeful that they would return into their business relationships with the Clippers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the left, on the front against the wall over there, left.

JASON CARROLL, CNN: Great. Jason - yes, thank you. Jason Carroll with CNN. I'm wondering if you've spoken to Mr. Sterling about this ban or any of his representatives. And if so, what has Mr. Sterling's reaction been to the punishment?

SILVER: I did not speak directly to his representatives about this ban. They were informed shortly before this press conference. I did not hear precisely what their reaction was.


ROBERT SILVERMAN, THE DAILY BEAST: Robert Silverman from "The Daily Beast." Has there been any decisions about whether the immediate members of Sterling's family, including Rochelle, and his -- will be allowed to remain in an ownership or managerial position in the league as well?

SILVER: No, there have been no decisions about other members of the Sterling family. And I should say that this ruling applies specifically to Donald Sterling, and Donald Sterling's conduct only.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixth row on the right.

MIKE MCCARTHY, AD AGE: Commissioner, Mike McCarthy from Ad Age. As you mentioned, over a dozen sponsors have dropped the Clippers. What has been the financial impact on this franchise, and on the league from this scandal?

SILVER: Mike, I don't know. This is all happening in three days. And so I'm hopeful that there will be no long-term damage to the league and to the Clippers organization. But as I said earlier, I'm outraged, so I certainly understand other people's outrage. And it will take some time. This will take some time. And appropriate healing will be necessary. I can understand precisely why -- you know, whether they be people who affiliated with the NBA or Clippers for a long time, or the corporate partners, I can understand how upset they are. And I'll do my best to bring them back into the NBA family. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixth row, in the middle.

SEAN GREGORY, THE TIMES: Sean Gregory from the "Times." If the three- fourths does not force the sale, can you still institute the lifetime ban?

SILVER: The lifetime ban has been instituted. That is independent of forcing a sale of the team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the middle. Mike Vaccarro, please.

MIKE VACCARRO, NEW YORK POST: Mike Vaccarro, "New York Post." Can you share with us what your initial reaction was when you first heard the voice on the tape, and what it was espousing?

SILVER: When I first heard it, I was shocked. I was hoping somehow that it was fraudulent, or it had been doctored. That possibly it wasn't indeed Donald Sterling. I've known Donald for over 20 years. So I suspected it was his voice. And we set about immediately investigating. That was my reaction to sort of bear down and say, let's get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixth row on the right at the end?

AARON KATERSKY, ABC CORRESPONDENT: Aaron Katersky from ABC. Mayor Johnson has indicated he would like the league to undertake a full accounting of Donald Sterling's past and the failures by the NBA to act until now. Is that an account you would be willing to undertake? And would you make any effort to mete out the personal views of other NBA owners at this point?

SILVER: I've had, as I said earlier, multiple conversations with Kevin Johnson. And I'm hoping that the actions we take today will satisfy our players. I believe they should.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right in front on the right.

JOHN WEINSTEIN, NEW YORK ONE: Commissioner, I'm John Weinstein from "New York One." Can you just tell us, you said you've known Donald Sterling for 20 years? What have your interactions over those 20 years been like with him? Have you ever seen anything like this? Have you ever felt anything like this? And what kind of man would you judge him to be prior to this?

SILVER: I have not been that close to him over the years, but there's nothing I've ever seen in his behavior that would evidence these kinds of views. I've certainly -- again, because there has been a lot of public filings about his activities, I've been aware of those accusations, but there's nothing I've seen firsthand that would indicate that he held the views that were expressed on these audio recordings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back in the middle, please. Raise your hand so he can see you. Thank you.

HOWARD MANDEL, SPORTS ON EARTH. Commissioner, Howard Mandel (ph), "Sports on Earth." I'm curious, just, you spoke about your personal response to this. In terms of Donald Sterling self-identifying as Jewish, and you doing the same as well, I'm wondering if there was a specific kind of pain associated with that for you, and if you felt a certain responsibility within the Jewish community to be responding to this in this way?

SILVER: I think my response was as a human being. And I use the word "distraught" before. I spoke on Saturday morning directly to Chris Paul, to Doc Rivers. And it wasn't even anger at that point. There was a certain somberness. And frankly, I felt sort of most strongly and personally for that team. While this affects every player and anyone associated with the NBA family, that for those players, and those coaches to go out and do what they need to do, and play at the highest level in the world, and have them hanging over this, I think caused me to have a certain sadness, I would say, about the entire situation. I think this is regardless of anyone's religion, ethnicity, nationality, I think this is incredibly hurtful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take two more. Back by the cameras.

JOE MAUCERI, PIX 11 NEWS: Mr. Silver, Joe Mauceri, PIX 11 News." At any time during your conversation with Mr. Sterling, did he express any remorse or denial regarding these comments?

SILVER: Mr. Sterling has not expressed those views directly to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to take two more. Andrew right here for one.

ANDREW ROSARIO (ph): Commissioner, Andrew Arasio (ph) again. It's been suggested that the Sacramento players -- I'm sorry, the Clippers players be granted free agency at the end of this year as a result of this issue. Is that something that can be considered?

SILVER: That is not something we're considering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Final question in the back in the middle.

JASON PAGE, NBC SPORTS RADIO: Jason Page, "NBC Sports Radio." If you don't get the three-quarter vote that you need, is it possible that Donald Sterling could still be an absentee owner profiting from this team?

SILVER: I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him.


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