After Sterling Ban, Clippers Coach Says Healing Process Begins

League reacts to racist rant made by LA Clippers' owner.

April 29, 2014, 2:27 PM

April 29, 2014— -- Los Angeles Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said tonight that the NBA's decision to ban owner Donald Sterling for life and fine him $2.5 million after he was recorded making racist comments about African-Americans can "begin the healing process" for the team, the league and the country.

"These last three or four days have been very difficult for everybody, no matter what your race," Rivers told reports before the game, set to tip off at 10:45 ET. "We can move forward. We have to. Yes, I do think [the NBA commissioner] made the right decision."

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

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Silver also said he would immediately recommend to the NBA Board of Governors that they force a sale of the Clippers and that he would do "everything in [his] power to ensure that happens."

NBA players and officials -- including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Steve Nash, and Players Association president Kevin Johnson -- applauded the decision from Los Angeles.

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NBA Players Association Vice President Roger Mason said that players across the league had made it clear they were willing to boycott the playoffs if the NBA didn't take swift, decisive action against Sterling.

Sterling, 80, has owned the team since 1981.

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Sterling's lawyer, Robert Platt, declined comment when asked by ESPN whether Sterling would dispute or respond to the NBA's decision.

Rivers said he hasn't thought about whether to leave the team in the wake of the controversy.

"You want to work with people who share your values or respect them," he said. Rivers said he had never heard Sterling make racial remarks in his presence. "You would like to change him, you'd like to change anyone's mind who feels that way."

He said he is confident Sterling will be forced to sell the team, but said that in the meantime he is sympathetic with the players' ambivalence about wearing jerseys with Clippers name.

The Clippers were blown out by the Golden State Warriors in the first game after the tape of Sterling's racist rant was released.

The players were in a team meeting reviewing tape of the game when Silver made his announcement. Rivers said that when he told the team the commissioner's decision, there was total silence.

"They were just happy that it was a resolution and it's over, at least the start of it to be," he said.

The money from the $2.5 million fine -- the maximum amount allowed by league rules -- will be donated to anti-discrimination groups, Silver said.

"As part of the lifetime ban, Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings and participating in any other league activity," said Silver.

PHOTO: Team owner Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers and V. Stiviano watch the San Antonio Spurs play  on May 19, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas.
Team owner Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers and V. Stiviano watch the San Antonio Spurs play on May 19, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The decision comes just days of public outrage directed at Sterling after an audio recording surfaced over the weekend that allegedly contained his voice saying racist comments to his then-girlfriend Vanessa Stiviano.

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The tape recorded a man's voice, which the NBA said today is that of Sterling, telling Stiviano not to post pictures of herself with black men to Instagram or bring black men to Clippers games. One of the men mentioned is Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.

"The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage," said Silver. "Sentiments of this kind are contrary to principles of inclusion and respect that inform our diverse, multicultural and multi-ethnic league."

Silver mentioned the league's role as a pioneer in diversity and acknowledged famous black players including Johnson.

When asked about past allegations of racial discrimination by Sterling, including two prior lawsuits, Silver said that the NBA was acting now because they had concrete evidence.

Sterling settled a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in 2009 for housing discrimination; in 2011, Sterling won a lawsuit brought by former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor over harassment and discrimination claims.

"Those are the only cases brought to our attention," Silver said. "When that [Baylor] litigation was brought it was watched closely by the league office. It concerned us greatly and we followed the litigation closely, but ultimately Elgin Baylor did not prevail in that litigation."

Silver said that he had been in discussions with Kevin Johnson, head of the National Basketball Players Association, and that the players would be supportive of the punishment.

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