NEW YORK — Issuing about the strongest rebuke that he could, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life Tuesday for making racist comments in a recorded conversation, the first step toward forcing a sale of the club and permanently removing Sterling from the league.
Silver also fined Sterling $2.5 million, and again expressed outrage.
"I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him," Silver said.
Several owners immediately chimed in with support of Silver's decision. Sterling, the league's longest-tenured owner and someone with an estimated net worth of about $2 billion, did not offer any immediate comment.
The penalties, which were announced only three days after the scandal broke, are the harshest ever issued by the league and among the stiffest punishments ever given to an owner in professional sports. Silver said a league investigation found that Sterling was in fact the person on the audiotapes that were released over the weekend and immediately sent shock waves throughout the game.
"We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling's views," Silver said. "They simply have no place in the NBA."
Sterling acknowledged he was the man on the tape, Silver said.
Sterling still owns the team, but going forward he is immediately barred from attending any NBA games or practices, being present at any Clippers office or facility, participating in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team, or being part of any league business.
It's unclear how Sterling will respond.
"This league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach and any one player," said Silver, who as commissioner has broad powers under what's typically called the "best interest of the game" clause of the NBA constitution.
But Silver works for the owners, and he will need 75 percent of them — if all 30 teams vote, he'll need 23 on his side — to force Sterling out of the league completely.