The National Basketball Association's initial sanctions against Donald Sterling look like public relations wins. A large majority of Americans said they would support the actions now taken against the Los Angeles Clippers owner over racist remarks he made, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.
But the people are much less enthusiastic about the next step proposed by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: forcing Sterling to sell the team.
Americans said they support suspending Sterling, by 66 percent to 18 percent, and fining him, by 71 percent to 15 percent. The poll was in the field before Silver on Tuesday announced the specific sanctions of a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine; it did not ask about the length of a potential suspension or the amount of a potential fine.
Along with those actions, which as commissioner he could impose unilaterally, Silver also said he would recommend that the NBA Board of Governors move to force Sterling to sell the team.
A forced sale was supported by only 47 percent of Americans. Thirty-one percent opposed the idea, and 22 percent said they weren't sure.
Majorities of Americans, regardless of race or political party, backed both suspending and fining Sterling, while the step of forcing a sale was far more divisive. Democrats supported a forced sale by 68 percent to 16 percent, and independents were also more likely to support the idea, by 42 percent to 34 percent. Republicans, on the other hand, were more likely to oppose it, by 48 percent to 26 percent.
Seventy-four percent of black respondents were ready to force Sterling to sell the team. Only 41 percent of white respondents agreed, although that group still outnumbered the 36 percent who said they opposed the idea.
African-Americans in the poll found Sterling's views so repugnant that 51 percent said they wouldn't work for someone with similar views even for $18 million a year. (The highest paid Clipper, Chris Paul, earned $18,668,431 this season.) Fifty-six percent said no way at a salary of $500,000 -- which is just a little over the current NBA minimum salary for players.
Faced with the same hypothetical, only 29 percent of white Americans said they wouldn't work for someone with Sterling's views for $18 million. And 33 percent said they wouldn't for $500,000.
The poll also highlighted why the NBA needed to act quickly. A whopping 86 percent of Americans said they had heard at least a little bit about the situation, including 52 percent who said they had heard a lot. Democrats and African-Americans, who were the most likely to support further action against Sterling, were also the most likely to be paying close attention.
Fifty-one percent of Americans said the NBA should have known about Sterling's views earlier, while only 15 percent said the taped conversation's release was the first sign.
And many suspect that Sterling is not alone in holding repugnant beliefs. Only 25 percent of Americans think his views are unique among owners of professional sports teams; 38 percent think other owners share those racist beliefs.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted April 29-30 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.