Fans cheer and chant "We are One" as the team defeats the Golden State Warriors
Hours before, Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been banned from the NBA
"It was almost like everybody wanted to exhale tonight," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers says
First came the revelations, then the anger, then the resounding victory.
After an emotional few days, the Los Angeles Clippers emerged from a dark cloud with a much-needed playoff win Tuesday night.
Fans cheered and chanted “We are One” as the team defeated the Golden State Warriors, 113-103.
Hours before, Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been banned for life from the NBA for racist remarks revealed over the weekend. The focus now turns to whether Sterling will sell the team, something he indicated he would not do – but that was before he was banned.
With the Clippers’ win, an ugly situation turned into a rebirth. The team lived up to the impromptu “We are One” slogan, printed in stark, black-and-white letters on its website.
“You think it’s just the players; it’s the fans, too. Everybody was going through this,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said after the game.
“It was almost like everybody wanted to exhale tonight, and it was good.”
Audio of Sterling’s conversation with a female friend was released Friday night, triggering a firestorm that led to his lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine.
Adam Silver detailed Sterling’s punishment of a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine – the “maximum amount” allowed per league guidelines – at a press conference eight hours before Sterling’s Clippers were to tip off in the fifth game of a tightly contested first-round playoff series with the Golden State Warriors.
Silver’s decision was met with immediate support from NBA owners, players and others connected to the league who have been calling for swift, firm punishment ever since TMZ posted audio featuring the incendiary comments.
“I hope that every bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so can you,” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star who was tasked with leading the NBA players union’s efforts on this matter.
Under the lifetime ban, Sterling is prohibited from attending NBA games or practices, stepping foot inside any Clippers’ facility, taking part in business or personnel decisions, or having a role in league activities such as attending NBA Board of Governors meetings.
Silver – who succeeded longtime NBA leader David Stern in February – also insisted he will do “everything in my power” to compel the NBA Board of Governors to “force a sale” of the Clippers. The commissioner said “I fully expect” to get the needed three-quarters of the league’s owners – meaning at least 23 – to back the move, though Sterling could fight any such move in court.
He said he was hopeful he’d get the needed three-quarters of the league’s owners – meaning at least 23 – to back the move. Sterling could fight any such move in court.
Before the punishment was announced, Jim Gray of Fox News reported that he spoke with Sterling and that the owner told him the team is not for sale. At the time, Sterling did not know what his fate would be.
Silver did not lay out a detailed timetable for action but said the league would start using its advisory finance committee to bring the issue before the owners “immediately.”
If Sterling does sell the team, he stands to profit considerably: He bought the Clippers for $12 million in 1981, and the team is now worth $575 million, according to Forbes magazine. And he’d likely have plenty of suitors: Among them is Hollywood mogul David Geffen, who spokeswoman Priscila Giraldo says is “interested” in buying the team.
Clippers: ‘Now the healing process begins’
On the recording, a man and woman argue about photos posted to Instagram in which she appears with African-Americans. The man says he doesn’t want the woman bringing any black people to games with her.
The sports website Deadspin on Sunday posted five additional minutes of what it said was part of the same audio recording.
Neither website has said how it obtained the recordings; Stiviano’s lawyer’s office said Sunday that she didn’t release them to TMZ, while stating they are legitimate.
On Saturday, Clippers President Andy Roeser suggested the audio was aimed at “getting even” with Sterling over a lawsuit.
Rochelle Sterling filed a lawsuit last month against Stiviano, who she said was having an affair with her husband and accusing Stiviano of going after extremely wealthy older men.
Roeser said that the offensive comments are “not consistent with, nor does it reflect (Sterling’s) views, beliefs or feelings.” Moreover, he cast doubt as to whether Sterling had made them, stating: “We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered.”
Silver expressed no such doubts Tuesday, saying the Clippers owner “acknowledged it was his voice on the tape.” Asked whether the owner expressed any remorse, the commissioner said, “Mr. Sterling has not expressed those views directly to me.”
Moments after Silver’s press conference concluded, the Clippers struck a different tone.
“We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today,” the team said. “Now the healing process begins.”
CNN’s Jill Martin and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.