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THE SITUATION ROOM
NBA Commissioner Holds Press Conference; Election Day
Aired May 20, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're standing by also to hear from the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver. He may answer reporters' questions about the scandal this hour.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The first polls are closing in Kentucky, one of six states holding primaries right now.
This is the biggest voting day before the midterm election, and it could help decide whether Republicans can deliver a punch to the -- in the gut to the president of the United States this fall and reclaim control of the United States Senate.
Today's contests are an important new test to the GOP establishment's fight to beat back influence from the Tea Party and its supporters. The most closely watched contest pits Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky against the Tea Party favorite, the challenger Matt Bevin. Bevin is standing by to join us live. We will discuss what's going on as we await the first results.
They are getting ready to come into the THE SITUATION ROOM.
Our political team is covering all the angles. Dana Bash is in Kentucky. Gloria Borger is with me for analysis, along with "CROSSFIRE" hosts S.E. Cupp and Van Jones.
First, let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He is over at the magic wall. He's taking a close look at Kentucky specifically.
This is a key battleground.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Key battleground, Wolf, a and key night for Mitch McConnell, who famously told "The New York Times" a couple of months back his goal this year is to crush the Tea Party.
His Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin, you will speak to in a few moments. By all accounts, if you look at the map, people are thinking that he's got a tough challenge today. First, let's just look at the map. If you see the blue and the red, these are 16 states. There are 36 Senate races up this year, 16 we view at the moment as either competitive for sure or potentially competitive.
And if you look at the map, see all that blue? Those are seats now held by Democrats, just two, Kentucky and Georgia, now held by Republicans. So, the big picture this year is the Republicans believe they have a favorable map.
What are the yellow states? Those the ones with primaries today, including Kentucky and Georgia, key Senate contests there. Let's take a closer look at Kentucky. As we noted right now on the primary ballot on the Republican side, Matt Bevin, a Louisville businessman, he's the Tea Party favorite, the Tea Party challenger.
He says Mitch McConnell has been in Washington too long, that he's part of the problem, but, Wolf, Mitch McConnell realized this challenge was coming early. He has been working hard and the five- term senator, who is the Republican leader now and hopes to be the majority leader, is heavily favored today. We will see what happens when the vote counts come in.
He won narrowly last time by about six points. Some would say that's no so narrow, but Kentucky is kind of tough. Should Mitch McConnell survive today, this is why this race will continue to get attention. His Democratic opponent will be the secretary of state, Alison Grimes.
If you look at the polling right now, that race is a dead heat. Some people say as much as $100 million -- that would be a huge record -- might be spent on the Kentucky Senate race. And again, as we wait, let's shift walls for a minute.
I just want to show you, this is Senator McConnell's last race in 2008, when he won with 53 percent of the vote. This year is viewed as more closely. Why is McConnell confident come November? Because presidents are an issue in midterms elections. Look at this map from 2012. Barack Obama just carried one, two, three, count them, four of Kentucky's 100-plus counties.
And one key point, Wolf, as we await the results tonight and as you prepare to talk to Mr. Bevin, this one here tells you where you find Tea Party votes in the state of Kentucky, if Bevin is to pull off a miracle, he has to perform hugely out here in the southwest rural areas, where you have more Tea Party voters. When you get up into this part of the state, it's more establishment and more conservative. So, again, McConnell the heavy favorite, he has vowed to crush the Tea Party, and, tonight, it's personal, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a new phenomenon, relatively speaking. I think it's fair to say, John, that the establishment Republicans, they have a lot of money, they are really going out of their way to try to beat back some of these Tea Party challengers because they are looking ahead to November.
KING: Looking ahead to November, looking back at the last couple election cycles, where Mitch McConnell, again to personalize it, lost some close points, Bob Bennett from Utah, Richard Lugar from Indiana.
So, he -- this is personal to him and Mr. Bevin can tell you about that when you talk to him. And looking ahead to November, they believe those -- quote, unquote -- "establishment candidates" have a better chance in November than the Tea Party candidates.
They think, for example, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, who beat Richard Lugar, Todd Akin in Missouri last time, some Tea Party candidates have left on the table seats that the Republicans think they could have, perhaps should have won. So, that's what they think the lesson is this year.
There is one question as we head forward. If Kentucky is 50/50 in November and if Mitch McConnell win tonight, will some of those Matt Bevin voters stay home? That's a big question. So, Mitch McConnell if he wins tonight needs to move immediately to unifying the Republican Party.
BLITZER: I'm going to ask Matt Bevin, if he loses tonight, how will he be in supporting Mitch McConnell come November.
We will see what he says. All right, John, thanks very much. Much more on the elections later this hour.
We're standing by. The first results will start coming in from Kentucky, we're told, in a few moments.
I want to move on now to another story we're following. We're getting a detailed look at the NBA's legal case against Donald Sterling. The formal charges make it clear the league not only wants to end Sterling's ownership of the L.A. Clippers, but wants to terminate his estranged wife's stake in the team as well.
Right now, we're monitoring a news conference. There you see the podium over there. They are getting ready to hear from the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver. He's going to be talking about the NBA's draft lottery, but reporters are there, and he may start answering questions about the Sterling scandal as well. We will have coverage of that here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In the meantime, let's bring in our panel, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's Rachel Nichols, the host of "UNGUARDED WITH RACHEL NICHOLS," that airs here on CNN, and CNN's Don Lemon, our anchor.
Guys, thanks very much.
One thing that's jumped out at me, Rachel, and I would like you to come in on this, is that they really want to make it clear in these new documents that have been released by the NBA that they don't only want to get rid of Donald Sterling; they really want to also get rid of his wife.
Let me read to you from this document. "If the NBA board of governors sustains the charge, the ownership interests of Mr. and Mrs. Sterling in the Clippers will be terminated."
So there's no loophole there. They want her gone as well.
RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.
And they talk about the membership of the Clippers being terminated. This has caught a lot of people's attention today. They are worried all of a sudden there's going to be no Clippers anymore, that Chris Paul is going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. It does not work that way.
DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought that.
NICHOLS: This is constitutional language within the NBA constitution that basically says if membership is terminated, that means that the Clippers revert to the stewardship of the NBA itself and the NBA commissioner.
There's an alternate route where they can just remove a specific owner from his team, but they are not going that route, because they do not want Shelly Sterling involved with this team anymore. They have made it clear, the players have made it clear, they want all Sterlings disassociated and that's why that language of the membership being terminated is used.
Doesn't mean though that are going to be no more L.A. Clippers; there will still be L.A. Clippers games to go to next season.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, today for the first time we heard the specific legal case that the NBA, Adam Silver, the commissioner, the lawyers at the NBA, they are making. How strong of a case, Jeffrey, do they have?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's stronger than we knew, because leading up to today, we knew that the charges were based on the statements that V. Stiviano disclosed or recorded and the statements to Anderson Cooper last week, but, in these charges, there is an additional allegation of obstruction of justice, that Donald Sterling and his associates lied to the NBA about their involvement in this whole matter when the NBA started investigating.
And that's an entirely new separate and additional ground for taking the franchise away from Sterling, according to this document.
BLITZER: The other point they make, Don, I will let you weigh in on this, is that he's refusing to pay that $2.5 million fine. That's the maximum fine the commissioner can impose on an owner and they write this in the document.
"An NBA membership may be terminated upon the failure of a member or owner to pay indebtedness owing to the league. This provision has been violated because the L.A. Clippers, through the act of Mr. Sterling, has not paid and has stated a refusal to pay the $2.5 million fine."
They say they have received a notice of default on this matter so they think that in and of itself is enough to terminate his ownership.
LEMON: That is. I don't know how many times I have heard you say this, Wolf, when you cover politics, is that it's very often not the crime, it's the cover- up. So, had it just been the tape, just been the tape...
NICHOLS: Don, it's also the crime. Come on.
LEMON: But it's also -- but, listen, he made it -- what I'm trying to say is that he made it worse for himself on the back end.
NICHOLS: He made it worse, no question.
LEMON: And also because it mentioned Shelly Sterling, we may not have had -- Shelly Sterling may not have been in this documentation had Shelly Sterling not tried to get out in front of this.
Also, the statements he made to Anderson Cooper, that is another thing that they added to this. And then the $2.5 million that Wolf just mentioned, he didn't pay that. That is another thing added on top of that. Each of these things occurred after the actual crime, so, yes, the crime is bad, but the cover-up, I would venture to say the cover- up is a little bit worse because with Anderson, Wolf, Rachel, and Jeffrey, he knew he was on tape.
He knew there was a camera there.
TOOBIN: That's true.
LEMON: And he said awful, awful things so that everybody could hear and they knew it was him. So I think it's here -- listen, yes, it is the crime, you're exactly right, Rachel, but the cover-up was pretty, pretty darn bad.
NICHOLS: No, and I do want to add from an NBA perspective, that I have talked to several of the groups surrounding the ownership groups and there's definitely some uneasiness when it was just the original crime, the recording, tapes.
We heard Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner, come out publicly and say he was concerned about the -- quote -- "slippery slope" of an owner being recorded secretly against his knowledge and his private utterances being used to take away his franchise.
LEMON: But that's a whole 'nother case, Rachel.
NICHOLS: Once that CNN interview aired -- well, then I'm just saying that they were uncomfortable, they were uncomfortable with that idea. That doesn't mean they weren't going to vote him out, but it made some people uncomfortable. LEMON: Right.
NICHOLS: I will say that once the interview aired on CNN with Anderson Cooper and it wasn't a secret, it wasn't without his knowledge, it wasn't private utterances, it was Donald Sterling looking at a camera and saying terrible things, it sort of released a lot of the ownership groups around the league to feel as if, OK, we don't have to worry about this anymore. This isn't something that could happen to us also, because we would never do something that stupid.
BLITZER: Let me follow up on the point Don was making about the alleged cover-up.
And I will read to you from this latest document we have received, Jeffrey. Stand by. Here's what they say: "Evidence was destroyed. It was discovered that relevant evidence was destroyed, false and misleading evidence was provided to the NBA's investigator, and the Los Angeles Clippers issued a false and misleading press statement."
Legally speaking, what do you make of that?
TOOBIN: Well, it is potentially a violation of the NBA constitution.
Now, remember, this is not a criminal matter. The government, the state of New York, the state of California, none of them are involved. This is a private dispute among commercial parties, but it's an agreement that he had to abide by or he gets thrown out.
The NBA is saying that you violated our constitution and we are a membership organization. We can choose who our members are and who our -- who is out, and you're going to be out.
And just one point I want to make is, the clock is really ticking now, because the NBA has said they are going to vote on June 3, and clearly I think Adam Silver has the votes to get rid of Sterling, so unless a court intervenes, it looks like Sterling is out.
BLITZER: Rachel, very quickly, we know the L.A. Clippers did issue what the NBA calls a false and misleading press statement once the initial surreptitious tapes, audiotapes were released, but do we know -- any of you know what relevant evidence was actually destroyed?
Rachel, first to you.
NICHOLS: No, that's fascinating. Everybody wants to know what are they talking about? Possibly, is it additional recordings that were destroyed?
And the timetable of this is also interesting, as Jeffrey just pointed out, that they gave Sterling notice and he has these five days to respond. Technically, they then have 10 days before they can hold that board of governors meeting. They are actually crunching the calender there. They're only doing it a few days later.
And the idea is to hold the hearing and strip Donald Sterling of his team the day or two before the NBA finals start. They want this issue off the table before the biggest show of their league and they also want to be able to look the rest of the world in the eye when Adam Silver has his state of the union press conference at the NBA finals, as the commissioner always does, and say, this is it, we handled it.
It's going to be very interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few days.
BLITZER: All right.
BLITZER: Hold on, Don. Stand by.
LEMON: All right.
BLITZER: because the commissioner, Adam Silver, he's getting ready. He's got a news conference on a totally unrelated subject, the draft lottery of the NBA, but he's going to answer reporters' questions. We're going to monitor what he's saying.
I suspect a reporter or two may ask a question about Sterling. We will have that for our viewers. I want you guys to weigh in if we hear from Adam Silver on this matter.
So, guys, stay with us.
Also coming up, much more of the election primary coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will speak live with the Republican challenging the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell. Matt Bevin, he is standing by. we will discuss.
BLITZER: Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, he's getting ready to walk over to that microphone, make some statements, answer reporters' questions.
They are talking about the NBA draft lottery of college basketball players, but, but, and this is a huge but, reporters could be asking serious questions about Donald Sterling. We will monitor what's going on. If he starts answering questions about Sterling, we will go there live.
In the meantime, let's bring back our panel, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's Rachel Nichols, the host of "UNGUARDED WITH RACHEL NICHOLS," and CNN's Don Lemon.
Here's -- and I will ask this to the legal expert, Jeffrey Toobin.
One of the things in this document that the NBA now has summarized, the legal arguments they are making against Sterling, and I will put it up on the screen, is this: "If the board" -- that means the NBA board of governors -- "by a 3/4 vote, sustains termination charges on the basis of Mr. Sterling's words, actions, and views, the constitution" -- that's the NBA constitution -- "calls for the entirety of Los Angeles Clippers' membership in the NBA to be automatically terminated."
How do you read that, Jeffrey?
TOOBIN: It's the death penalty. It's the provision that says we're going to take your franchise away and it takes three-quarters of the 29 owners who own teams in the NBA to say we don't want you in our association anymore.
And this is a key point. The NBA is not a company. It is not a -- you know, it's not a publicly held corporation. It's an association. And they speak of members. And the owners are members of an association and they can choose to admit people and they can choose to reject people according to their constitution.
They say that Sterling has violated the terms of the constitution, so if three-quarters of the remaining owners vote, he's out.
BLITZER: And you know the NBA, Rachel. You know the inside of what's going on, 29 other owners. Do you have any doubt that 75 percent, three-fourths of them, will vote to terminate his involvement and Mrs. Sterling's involvement in the NBA?
NICHOLS: I don't have any doubt.
And I really have to credit commissioner Adam Silver for this. He's a new commissioner. He's only been on the job three or four months and the way he handled this has been pretty masterful.
There was such an outcry after these tapes came out. Immediately, in the 24 hours following, he was good, he was calm, he obviously called for an investigation, didn't give away too much, because he's a lawyer. He knows he couldn't say too much to get himself in trouble, but made sure that investigation went quickly.
And then when he gave that news conference that we played over and over again, he laid down the gauntlet to the other NBA owners. I asked him at that press conference, have you polled the owners, do you know you have the votes, and he specifically said no.
And this is a huge departure from his predecessor. David Stern never went into any kind of vote without knowing ahead of time he had the votes. Adam Silver took a different tack here and he decided he was going to publicly challenge the other owners of NBA teams that even if they felt uncomfortable, they had to vote this guy out, and public pressure, pressure from the players has made that a reality.
BLITZER: Don, it's an interesting point that Rachel makes, going back to that initial Adam Silver news conference when he banned Donald Sterling for life from the NBA, but he made it clear at that point he wasn't banning Mrs. Sterling from the NBA. She did show up at several Clippers games after her husband was banned from showing up at any games. In this new document that we have now obtained, Adam Silver, the lawyers for the NBA are making it clear she's got to go as well, not necessarily banned from attending a game, but she's going to lose ownership of the team, just as he will.
LEMON: Yes, and it's called doing the right thing. And that's what he said in the beginning, I'm doing the right thing.
And when Rachel asked him and he said, no, I didn't poll anyone, he wanted to make sure he did the right thing. And as everyone has been saying here, perhaps Donald Sterling and Mrs. Sterling, Shelly Sterling, should have taken a seat and been quiet, had she been quiet, people may not have known about her plans to try to keep 50 percent, at least 50 percent of the team. She may not have been mentioned in these documents.
But, Wolf, when I raised my hand just before the break, what I was saying is -- what I wanted to say is, this is what we're hearing from the NBA today. Donald Sterling is going to respond to this, whether it be through his lawyer or what have you. I don't think he's going to go away just because these documents came out from the NBA.
I think his attorney, Maxwell Blecher, one of the best litigators out there, fully expected this. But what I also found interesting in the documents, when you mentioned Shelly Sterling, it says, listen, they both took an oath or at least are supposed to conduct business according to the highest moral and ethical standards and they are in violation of their joint agreement, they said, among the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA members.
And they said it is "a violation of the contractual duty of loyalty to support the league in the attainment of its proper purposes, which include among other things the league's commitment to diversity and inclusion."
Both of them, they say, broke these rules that Donald Sterling signed up for when he agreed to buy this team.
BLITZER: You have been going to a lot of the games, Rachel. How awkward the timing of this scandal that's going on right now is it? When you go cover a Miami Heat game, for example, how awkward is it, not just for fans, but for the players themselves, that also hovering over all of this is this awful, awful situation?
NICHOLS: Well, it's certainly not an accident the timing, right, that TMZ released this just as the playoffs were beginning? These tape recordings happened long before that, but this is the most -- this is the time of year when there's the most attention, the brightest spotlight on the league.
And I would say that it's been a little bit difficult for players, certainly the L.A. Clippers while they were still in the playoffs, having to play under this enormous pressure and burden, all these questions, all of these allegations going on, and for other players around the league, too. I have been to several of the games that LeBron James has been playing and he's been under increased pressure because a lot of people are looking at him in a leadership role, are you going to boycott, are you going to boycott, what are you going to say about this?
But I do think that the way the NBA has handled this overall, and that includes the Players Association, has been really admirable. The fact that the Players Association did come out and say they were going to boycott has actually helped make the NBA's case here, which is interesting.
BLITZER: Hold on, because I think Adam Silver is being asked about all of this, the commissioner of the NBA. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: ... finance committee, which is 10 NBA owners who have been meeting on a regular basis to discuss these proceedings, and the timing is laid out in the NBA constitution.
We're following it to the letter in terms of numbers of days that Mr. Sterling has to respond and then when the hearing will be held. And, as I said, I know we're doing the right thing here. This is an unprecedented proceeding.
Will there be bumps in the road? Presumably, yes. Mr. Sterling on one hand at least in his CNN interview indicated a willingness to accept the judgment of his owner partners. His lawyers are saying otherwise, so we will see. But this will all get worked out. I know we're pursuing the right course here and doing the right thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Next question right next to Brian.
QUESTION: Commissioner, Charles Gardner from "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel."
Tonight begins the leadership for Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens with the Bucks. And I wondered if you could just talk about the process of approving them and what you think they will bring to the league.
SILVER: I'll tell you, in terms of the process of approving Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, it went very smoothly and very quickly. I have known Marc Lasry, fellow New Yorker...
BLITZER: All right. So, a question of the new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, but you did hear Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, make it clear that they have a path forward. He says it's unprecedented.
They are moving forward to get rid of Donald Sterling as the owner of the L.A. Clippers.
Let's get immediate analysis.
First, Jeffrey Toobin, what did you think?
TOOBIN: Well, the ball now really is in the court of the Sterlings and their lawyers, because there's an expression. You know, money talks and mere rhetoric walks. That's not exactly how it usually goes, but the...
NICHOLS: That was very creative, Jeffrey Toobin. That was very impressive.
TOOBIN: They have to decide whether they are going to go to court, because if they don't go to court, they're going to -- the Sterlings are going to lose the franchise.
LEMON: Jeffrey, I'm surprised you didn't -- I'm surprised you didn't say what he said. As soon as we went to him, he said, I am positive we are doing the right thing.
I said that no more than three minutes ago. He said, we're doing the right thing. He's not taking a poll. He said, I know there are going to be bumps along the way.
BLITZER: Hold on, guys. Hold on, guys. There's another question being asked now.
QUESTION: Are you willing to give his attorney and Mr. Sterling three months to respond? And Mrs. Sterling, what is your position on her ownership?
SILVER: In answer to your first question, no, I'm not going to talk about the specifics of the case.
In terms of additional time, the answer has been no. The proceedings and the process is set out in our constitution, something they signed on for when they became owners in the league.
And my position on Mrs. Sterling is that, and I said at the initial press conference, we haven't focused on any conduct by Mrs. Sterling. The way the franchise termination proceedings work is that, if the primary controlling governor of the team, in essence, is found by three-quarters of the members of the -- the other members of the association, the other owners in the league, to have, in essence, you know, done something under our constitution that calls for the termination of his team, all ownership interests are terminated as part of that proceeding.
As I understand the position of Mrs. Sterling's lawyers, in essence, they would say, we accept you can terminate Mr. Sterling, but somehow Mrs. Sterling comes with the team. I think, even if that's not what it said in our constitution, it just doesn't make sense. I mean, the same way even if you had unrelated partners, if you terminated the franchise of the primary owner, and that owner had several, you know, colleagues, cronies, who are also owners with him, it wouldn't make sense that, under our constitution, we could then go about selling the team, but those other partners would have to come along.
And so our position is, once under the constitution, based on Mr. Sterling's conduct, if the owners ultimately decide that it's appropriate to terminate his franchise, the interest of all owners is terminated.
QUESTION: If I may follow, in the interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, what exactly was it that he said to Anderson that made his situation worse, in your opinion?
SILVER: You know, it's outlined in the charge that we made against Mr. Sterling. I will say I responded in part right after that interview to particular comments he made about Magic Johnson, but also to comments he made about African-Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the left-hand side right here, Dave.
QUESTION: Yes, Adam, David Bevan, ESPN Los Angeles.
Kind of piggybacking on that last question, you mentioned earlier on when you had the -- announced the lifetime ban of Donald Sterling that you had some interaction with him in terms of interviewing, a information-gathering process. Has that continued at all, or by virtue of his public comments in the CNN interview and then your statement afterwards, are you beyond that point where you guys can hash it out just between man to man?
SILVER: Well, I will only say that Mr. Sterling still owns the Los Angeles Clippers.
Mrs. Sterling, as I understand, through a trust, owns 50 percent of the team as well. It's their team to sell. And so he knows what the league's point of view is, and so I'm sure if he wanted to sell the team, you know, on some reasonable timetable, I would prefer he sell it than we go through this process. So if that's what you mean by man to man, I'm open to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back on the left-hand side.
MARK MEDINA, "LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS": Mark Medina, "Los Angeles Daily News." Adam, how long do you envision this transition process regarding the Clippers ownership situation taking?
SILVER: Well, under our constitution, he has until next Tuesday to respond to our charge, and then a hearing will take place the following Tuesday on June 3, most likely here in New York.
I envision once we move through that process, that we will then put the team in order, as presumably, we will hire an investment banker, and we will conduct an orderly process. And we also have a fiduciary obligation to the Sterlings to ensure that we sell it for the highest possible price, and there's no doubt it's an incredibly valuable asset. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two more questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott Dashielle Cooper (ph). Adam, what are the right words to describe your feelings that you're getting all the questions about Donald Sterling and not why we're here or the NBA playoffs, that he's dominating coverage of your league?
SILVER: This is a great question, Scott, and it's hard for me to put in words sometimes.
I mean, especially as I said earlier, that we're coming off some of the best playoffs in, certainly, my memory. And your question makes me think of Kevin Durant's MVP speech. I hope if anybody hasn't seen it, you go to NBA.com and watch it.
But I remember at one point Kevin Durant says, really in addressing his mother, who was sitting in the audience at the end of the speech, and I'm paraphrasing, I think, but he said something like, "You know, Mom, we weren't supposed to be here. You know, the deck was stacked against us." And even -- I get choked up a little bit there just remembering watching him give that speech, and I think Kevin Durant as our most valuable player embodies what this league is all about, and frankly, Mr. Sterling doesn't.
And so it's not just the performances on the court that it's a distraction from, and I think what made this moment bigger than basketball, certainly for everybody involved in the league, and that moment being that recording, was that it did come from within, that under David Stern and commissioners that came before him, barriers were broken with this league.
And I think they are -- for those who say it's a slippery slope and, my God, what happens to the next player or the next owner who does something wrong, I only say there's something particular about race issues when it comes to sports, and maybe the NBA in particular.
I mean, it's no secret. We have a league that the majority of the players are African-American. The vast majority of the owners are not. But it's as egalitarian an institution as there is anywhere, at least that I know of. And I look at the track record in terms of hiring of coaches, general managers, front office personnel. Even increasingly in the ownership ranks, I think it's -- you know, it's beyond anger. It's sort of what I said earlier. There's a certain sadness, and you feel it.
It's almost a malaise around the league. That's what I sense when I first met with the Clippers. It was something deeper than anger. It was something -- again, it's that so many of our players, and listening to Kevin Durant, you know, who had experienced discrimination in their lives, you know, we're not a post-racial society, but at least within the boundaries of my authority, you know, I feel an obligation to protect the people who are within this league, and so that's my reaction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take our last question up front on the right. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commissioner, you've talked about continuing to grow the game globally. Does the league have any plans to play any exhibition or preseason games in Australia in the future?
SILVER: You know, no specific plans, but we're looking at it. Australia has been a terrific market.
BLITZER: All right, so there he is, Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, now moving on to other NBA-related issues, but you heard him make a very passionate statement on what's going on in the aftermath of the Donald Sterling scandal.
Let's get a quick thought from our panelists. Rachel, first to you. What did you make of Adam Silver's very poignant comments?
NICHOLS: Yes, I was struck by the fact he used the phrase, "It's something deeper than anger." That tells you how far he will go to make sure this sale happens. And it also tells you a little bit about where the league is right now and sort of how far we've come. And I think it's pretty impressive.
BLITZER: Very impressive, indeed -- Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: June 3 Donald Sterling is gone unless a court intervenes, and the clock is ticking.
BLITZER: All right. Don Lemon, wrap it up.
LEMON: I think Adam Silver gets it. For anyone who is sitting there in America and you may be siding with Donald Sterling for any particular reason, this man gets it. He spoke to the heart of America.
Most Americans, and not to businesspeople who are saying this guy's business shouldn't be taken away from him. He spoke to the heart of America. He gets it. He's doing the right thing, and let's hope Donald Sterling hears him and goes along with it.
BLITZER: You've got to give the new commissioner a lot, a lot of credit for the way he's handled this crisis in the NBA.
Don, we'll see you back here at 10 p.m. Eastern. Later tonight, Don's going to have a special program. Much more on this story, certainly, coming up. Guys, thanks very much.
We're also following another breaking story. It's election day in six states. CNN's complete coverage of these critical primaries. I'll be here, along with our political team. We're going to bring you the results as they come in and the reaction. A special edition of CROSSFIRE starts right now.