Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, working on behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, said the players want the NBA to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from attending future playoff games this season and levy the maximum possible punishment against Sterling in response to racist comments purportedly made by him to girlfriend V. Stiviano.
Johnson met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Sunday before they attended Game 4 of the Clippers’ first-round series against the Golden State Warriors. During the meeting, Johnson laid out what the players felt were key objectives in terms of the league’s dealings with Sterling.
“The players wanted to ensure that Mr. Sterling does not attend any games for the Clippers or any other team for the duration of the playoffs,” Johnson said. “We’re confident that the commissioner understood that this is an enormous distraction for everyone, and we want the focus to really be on the games and what’s taking place on the court, and he certainly understood that.”
Sterling was at Game 3 on Thursday night in Oakland, Calif., and was planning to be at Game 4 on Sunday before speaking with the league and agreeing not to attend as it investigated his comments. Sterling’s wife, Rochelle, however, was at Sunday’s game and sat courtside across from the Clippers’ bench in their 118-97 loss.
“I don’t condone those statements and I don’t believe in them,” Rochelle Sterling told ESPN. “I’m not a racist. Never have been, never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family.”
She expounded on those statements Monday morning, releasing a statement that read: “Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband. My children and I do not share these despicable views or prejudices. We will not let one man’s small mindedness poison the spirit of the fans and accomplishments of the team in the city we love. We are doing everything in our power to stand by and support our Clippers team.”
Stiviano’s lawyer released a statement Sunday afternoon that stated the tapes carrying the purported voices of Stiviano and Sterling were “legitimate.” The quotes came from approximately an hour’s worth of recorded conversation that Stiviano says she did not leak to the media.
Johnson said he wanted Silver to explain the range of sanctions that could be levied against Sterling if the accusations against him were true and then to see the maximum level of those sanctions used.
“The players are waiting for the commissioner to act decisively,” Johnson said. “They want the maximum of what the constitution and bylaws will allow and we’re trying to figure out what that is. They want the maximum. They want a decision to be made quickly and decisively. If you don’t respect the players in this league, then the values that we all espouse are for naught.”
Johnson, who was asked to assist the players on this matter by NBPA president and Clippers guard Chris Paul, also said the players wanted the league and Silver to give them full accounting of the prior accusations of racism made against Sterling and why those were never sanctioned by the league.
In November 2009, Sterling agreed to pay a record $2.725 million to settle allegations that he discriminated against African-Americans, Hispanics and families with children at several apartment buildings he owns in and around Los Angeles.
“We also believe as the players’ association it’s our responsibility to find out the history of Mr. Sterling and why sanctions did not occur,” Johnson said. “You have a dual and mutual interest in trying to understand the past, in trying to understand somebody of this magnitude and the comments that have been made.”
Johnson said the players also wanted to be engaged and considered full partners in the league’s investigation and process for dealing with Sterling moving forward. He also said the players want Silver to carry out the process “swiftly and decisively and act unequivocally.”
“We believe this is a defining moment for the league,” Johnson said. “It’s defining moment for the commissioner and a defining moment for all the players in this league.”
Johnson said he spoke to several NBA owners who were just as united as the players on the subject.
“There is nobody, there’s no one that believes these actions and these comments, if found true, are acceptable and fitting of anything the NBA represents and stands for,” Johnson said.
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