Breaking Down the Donald Sterling Scandal: The Audio, The Lawsuits, the Reactions

How a leaked audio tape is sending shockwaves through the NBA.

April 28, 2014, 10:03 AM

April 28, 2014— -- The NBA slapped Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban today plus levied a $2.5 million fine for racist comments he made.

"Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at a news conference in New York.

Silver also said he would do everything in his power to force the sale of the team.

The scandal stems from the release of an audio tape this weekend that recorded a man identified as Sterling making racist remarks to his girlfriend, including disparaging comments about basketball legend Magic Johnson.

The comments unleashed a torrent of condemnations from celebrities and politicians including President Obama, as well as an intense focus on Sterling and his past.

In addition, a stream of corporations have withdrawn their sponsorship of the team to protest Sterling's comments and his involvement in the team.

Here, ABC News breaks down the scandal for you.

Key People

  • Donald Sterling, the 80-year old owner of the LA Clippers, who has owned the team since 1981, longer than any other current owner.
  • Vanessa Stiviano, Sterling's 31-year-old girlfriend. The audio recording released by TMZ shows a conversation between Sterling and Stiviano about Stiviano's Instagram account, in which she has posted photos of herself with black people including Magic Johnson.

    WATCH: Sterling’s Ex-Girlfriend Tries to Hide Face With Oversized Visor

  • Rochelle Sterling, Donald Sterling's estranged wife of 50 years and mother of his three children. Rochelle Sterling recently filed a lawsuit accusing Stiviano of embezzling $1.8 million and says that Donald Sterling used communal property to give Stiviano two Bentleys, a Ferrari, and a Range Rover, according to the LA Times.
  • Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, who banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million and said he would try to force Sterling to sell the team.

    See How the NBA Responds to Donald Sterling

Key Allegations

  • The audio recording has a male voice - identified by Stiviano and the NBA as Donald Sterling - chastising Stiviano for posting pictures of herself with black people to her Instagram account and admonishes her for wanting to be seen with black people. The male voice on the recording says that Stiviano can do whatever she wants in private, including having sex with black men, but should not post photos of them to the internet or bring them to Clippers' games.
  • Stiviano points out that she is black and Latina. Sterling says that is fine because she can seem like a "delicate white or delicate Latina girl."
  • Stiviano's lawyers released a statement saying that the audio tape was part of a one hour recording, and confirmed that the voices were that of Stiviano and Sterling. They denied that she made the recording public.
  • The team released a statement saying, “Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life."
  • Donald Sterling has faced allegations of racial discrimination in the past. In November 2009 he agreed to pay $2.73 million to settle allegations that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics and blacks and to families with children. In 2011, Sterling won a lawsuit brought by former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor over harassment and discrimination claims.
  • In a lawsuit filed by Sterling's wife, Rochelle Sterling, she claims that her husband began an affair with Stiviano at the 2010 Superbowl and the pair have been together since.

What Might Happen Next

  • NBA Commissioner Adam Silver lowered the hammer in his ruling today, with the life time ban, the maximum fine and a vow to force a sale of the Clippers.
  • Silver said Sterling could be forced to sell the team by a vote of two-thirds of the league's owners.

Reaction and Condemnation

  • President Obama: I don't think I have to interpret those statements for you, they kind of speak for themselves. When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything. You just let them talk... I suspect that the NBA is going to be deeply concerned in resolving this.
  • Magic Johnson: Obviously, if the reports are true, it's unacceptable in our league. It doesn't matter white, black, or Hispanic - all across the races it's unacceptable. As the commissioner of our league, they have to make a stand. They have to be very aggressive with it."
  • Rochelle "Shelly" Sterling: "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."
  • The Clippers players expressed their disapproval by taking off their team jerseys during warm-ups before Sunday's game and wore jersey's without a team logo. They wore their regular uniforms for the game.
  • CarMax and a slew of other advertisers yanked their sponsorship of the Clippers saying that Sterling's alleged racist comments were "completely unacceptable."
  • The NAACP was set to award Sterling the Lifetime Achievement Award this year, but said it will no longer do so due to the tape.

Keep up with the latest on the Donald Sterling scandal at

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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