Donald Sterling: The Shifting Stakes for Lifetime Bans From a Sport

PHOTO: A banana thrown by supporters of RCD Espanyol during the La Liga match between RCD Espanyol and FC Barcelona at Cornella-El Prat Stadium, March 29, 2014, in Barcelona.
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Common crimes that drew bans or sanctions in the sports world years ago were gambling and fixing games.

That doesn't happen as much anymore thanks to stricter gambling regulations, said Richard Davies, who teaches sports history at the University of Nevada in Reno.

"The sports books have to be very careful," Davies said. "If there is any kind of unusual money coming in, they're going to notify the FBI. Betters have to be assured that the game is on the up-and-up and not rigged."

But today, racism is in the spotlight when it comes to lifetime sports bans.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on Tuesday after Sterling fessed up to racist rants caught on tape –- the latest in a string of racially fueled missteps by sports figures resulting in lifetime suspensions.

NBA Bans Donald Sterling For Life, Imposes $2.5M Fine

ESPN: Full Coverage of the Donald Sterling Investigation

Breaking Down the Donald Sterling Scandal

On Sunday, a Spanish soccer fan threw a banana at a black soccer player on the opposing team, Barcelona -- a racist taunt that got the fan banned for life from the stadium, ESPN reported.

Unfortunately, it’s an all-too common taunt at games in Spain, where African-American players are often greeted by monkey chants from the stands.

Last year, a Greek soccer player was banned from the national team for life after giving a Nazi salute on the field.

Major League Baseball suspended Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott twice –- in 1993 and in 1996 –- for making racist remarks about African Americans and for condoning Adolf Hitler. Schott wasn’t banned for life, but she ended up selling the team in 1999.

Decades ago, there weren't as many bans related to racism, Davies said, maybe because there weren't many black athletes in professional sports.

"It didn't happen because attitudes toward African Americans were different," he said. "Jackie Robinson didn't break the color ban until 1947. The Boston Red Sox didn't have a black player until 1959."

Back then, many sports bans related to gambling. That’s what got Pete Rose kicked out of baseball in 1989, and a handful of Chicago White Sox players banned after they lost the 1919 World Series on purpose.

In another infamous scandal, Brooklyn basketball player Connie Hawkins was banned -- some say unjustly -- from the NBA eight years after he was linked to point-shaver Jack Molinas, ESPN reported.

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