The ball is in NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's court. In word and deed, the league's players have made their stance on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling clear: They want the NBA to levy the maximum punishment possible in response to racist remarks attributed to him.
"They want to know within the bylaws and the constitution, what are the maximum sanctions that are available for the Commissioner to mete out," Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson said on behalf of the National Basketball Players Association on Sunday. "That's what we're trying to understand here and that is what the players want. If it allows a player to voice an opinion where a Commissioner and owners make a decision to remove somebody, then that's certainly what the players would like to see."
Speaking before the Clippers played against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on Sunday, Johnson, who played for the Phoenix Suns from 1987-2000, referred to this as a "defining moment" for the NBA and for Silver. The first crisis of Silver's tenure as NBA Commissioner began on Friday evening when TMZ released an unverified audio recording of Sterling allegedly telling his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, that he doesn't want her to bring black friends to Clippers games or post pictures with black friends on Instagram.
"The players are outraged by what took place," Johnson told reporters on Sunday. "Due process has to take place. We are all committed to due process and I think what we're all struggling with right now is how do we not get too hasty, a rush to judgment. On the same token, we can't approach this with any hesitancy. And that's the balance that we're all trying to strike. I think the Commissioner, and if you think of the NBA in the past, it usually makes decisions really, really quickly and I don't anticipate this being any different."
Silver called the audio recording “truly offensive and disturbing” during a press conference on Saturday in Memphis. He announced that the NBA would be investigating the recording and that Sterling had agreed not to attend the Clippers' game in Oakland on Sunday.
“All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy, which is why I’m not yet prepared to discuss any potential sanctions against Donald Sterling,” Silver told reporters on Saturday. “We will, however, move extraordinarily quickly in our investigation.”