Although he expressed outrage at Sterling's remarks, Silver also reminded people that even the disgraced deserve due process. Not everyone was impressed. Some said he came off as timid, or bookish. It folded into the narrative of a longtime apprentice, not quite ready to stand on his own yet. But those who knew him best were unfazed. Silver had earned the respect of the owners during the 2011 NBA lockout. In fact, many of them had wanted him to succeed Stern much sooner. Over the next 24 hours, half a dozen owners issued statements condemning the purported remarks of Sterling, and expressing their faith in Silver to act on it. "We trust Adam," one owner said in the hours leading up to his announcement of Sterling's ban.
The statement he would issue Tuesday had to be delivered, not read. It was a moment for an orator, not a lawyer. The nation was listening. Silver began slowly, reading the remarks he had prepared line by line. Then he looked up and delivered the line: "Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life." A seasoned actor could not have performed it better. It was forceful. It was healing. It was his moment.
"You gotta give Adam a lot of credit," one Clippers staffer said. "I didn't know if he had it in him."
It's funny what ends up getting you in the end. Al Capone went down for tax evasion. Richard Nixon fell because his paranoia drove him to record everything. The tapes of Donald Sterling became public because he and his wife sue to get what they want, knowing most people don't have the means to fight back.
The woman in the tapes, V. Stiviano, worked as his assistant for four years. They'd met at the Super Bowl one year, hit it off and grew closer. She traveled with him, went to meetings with him and was paid a salary. Although she denies that they had a romantic relationship, Sterling is described in court papers by her attorney as "a highly public figure who is well known to be 'keeping women' other than his wife and who has done so for very many years with a big toothy grin brandishing his sexual prowess in the faces of the Paparazzi and caring less of what anyone thought, the least of which, his own wife."
Sterling lavished gifts on Stiviano over their four-year relationship, including a 2013 Range Rover, a 2012 Ferrari and two Bentleys. He paid her rent. He bought her jewelry. And, on March 7 of this year, Sterling's wife, Shelly Sterling, sued her to get it all back.
Stiviano lawyered up. Her attorneys filed a response to the civil suit, asking that the case be dismissed on April 21. Instead, Shelly Sterling's attorneys requested that Stiviano turn over all tapes and recordings made of herself and Sterling. The law compelled her to do so.
Four days later, the tapes surfaced publicly on TMZ.
On Monday of this week, Stiviano met with NBA investigator Anders and verified that she and Sterling were indeed the ones on the tape, which was recorded in September. She told them that Sterling knew he was being recorded and that they often taped conversations because Sterling, who sources say has been battling cancer in recent years, forgets things, and explained that part of her job was to help coach him on his image. On one of the tapes, a third person is heard in the background. The NBA also interviewed that third person before Silver made his ruling Tuesday, a fact that could be important later if the legality of the tapes is questioned.