Former Clippers Owner Donald Sterling Caused One of the NBA's Biggest Scandals

"There's no room for that in our game. Can't have that from a player, we can't ever from an owner, we can't have it from a fan," LeBron James said.


Apr. 26 2024, Published 11:00 a.m. ET

Donald Sterling sitting on the sideline during an NBA game on Nov. 2, 2006
Source: Getty Images

Race in the NBA has always been a fraught topic, but rarely has the issue been more acute than it was in 2014. One of the biggest scandals to ever rock the league made its way to Los Angeles. The scandal has reverberations that have lasted to this day, and now, a new limited series is going to focus on the events of the series and their aftermath.

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If you weren't following the league back when the scandal broke in 2014, or if you'd like a refresher, then you're in luck. Here's everything we know about the LA Clippers scandal regarding former owner Donald Sterling.

Donald Sterling attends the NBA playoff game between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors on April 21, 2014
Source: Getty Images
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What happened during the LA Clippers scandal in 2014?

The scandal broke during a first round playoff series between the LA Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. Tape was leaked of Donald Sterling, who owned the Clippers at the time, making racist statements to his his mistress, V. Stiviano.

There had been dozens of incidents involving Donald over his time in the league that may have justified kicking him out, but this tape was, for many, the final straw.

"In your lousy f--king Instagram, you don't have to have yourself walking with Black people," he said on the tape. "It bothers me a lot that you want to promote, broadcast that you're associating with Black people. Do you have to?"

At one point, Stiviano even asks Donald if he's aware that many of the people he employs through the Clippers are Black.

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"Do I know? I support them, and give them food and clothes and cars and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game?" he said.

The response from the league's players was swift, and many stated that they would no longer play their upcoming playoff games if NBA commissioner Adam Silver didn't immediately take action to remove Donald.

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"There's no room for that in our game," LeBron James said the following day. "Can't have that from a player, we can't ever from an owner, we can't have it from a fan, and so on and so on. It doesn't matter if you're Black, white, Hispanic, or whatever the case may be. We can't have that as part of our game."

Adam Silver was just 90 days into his time on the job, and the threat of a league-wide walkout was more real than many people realized. Thankfully, Adam responded appropriately and banned Donald from the league for life and instituting a $2.5 million fine on him, the maximum allowed by the league.

Donald was also stripped immediately of all of his power over the team, and forced to sell his ownership stake in it. It was one of the most serious punishments ever placed on the owner of a professional sports team, and one that ultimately saved the wider league as a whole. Now, a decade later, it's clear that Adam's response was entirely justified.

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