Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA in response to racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he will try to force the controversial owner to sell his franchise. Sterling also was fined $2.5 million, and Silver made no effort to hide his outrage over the comments…

Silver said Sterling acknowledged he was the man on the tape.

Sterling is immediately barred from attending NBA games or practices, being present at any Clippers office or facility, or participating in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He also cannot participate in any league business going forward.

***

***

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to back the NBA’s decision to ban Clippers owner Donald Sterling from games and practices for life, condemning racist remarks attributed to Sterling and demanding a personal apology to Magic Johnson and all Angelenos.

The resolution, presented by Councilman Bernard C. Parks, also asked The Times and other newspapers to stop running ads for Sterling’s real estate empire and “alleged civic activities.” The Times had no immediate comment on the request to drop Sterling’s advertisements…

He added that “at the minimum, Mr. Sterling owes the city of Los Angeles a personal apology.”

***

It’s a harsh punishment, no doubt. But let’s not kid ourselves about the $2.5 million. Sterling, after all, is reportedly worth $1.9 billion. According to a 2013 Credit Suisse report on global wealth, the median American is worth $44,911. In other words, a $2.5 million fine for Sterling is like a $59 fine for that middle-of-the-road American.

Also, a reminder: Donald Sterling bought the Clippers for $12.5 million. The team is now worth at least $575 million; some think it’s worth more than $1 billion. We have a feeling he’ll come out of this just fine.

***

Coming into the press conference, legal experts even disagreed on whether Silver had the power to ask the board of governors (which consists of the league’s 30 owners) to vote on kicking an owner out of the league.

Combine all of that with the fact that Sterling is a notoriously litigious man, and Silver had plenty of excuses to be apprehensive in the severity of his punishment.

But Silver didn’t take a half-measure; he burned Sterling to the ground.

He risked embarrassment (if he doesn’t get the three-fourths majority of owners he needs to oust Sterling), litigation (if Sterling sues him), and precedent (there is now a roadmap for ousting owners for their statements and beliefs).

***

Imagine a world where public opinion takes a sharp turn against say, fracking. The last thing Aubrey McClendon wants is a throng of pitchfork-wielding environmentalist protesters camping out in front of Chesapeake Arena, home to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Or if an objection to gay marriage is suddenly viewed by the vast majority of individuals as solely an expression of homophobic bigotry. Do you think the Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos wants fans of the team having to decide whether buying tickets is a form of validating his statements that gays “keep asking for favors,” and that marriage is “not vital to them, in my opinion?”

This is why Silver’s actions today were surprising. He has established as precedent the idea that words and actions that have nothing to do with what occurs on the court could result in the loss of a billion dollar asset.

***

[Y]es, of course, if an owner of a business makes baldly racist remarks urging public dissociation from an entire racial group, private sector sanctions – from the NBA or fans or sponsors – are “permissible.” They are always permissible in a free country. That’s why Brendan Eich is out of a job. The second question is whether what is permissible is proper or justified, and that will always depend on the specific case. I think it’s obviously appropriate in the Sterling case – because the remarks are horrifyingly racist. If Brendan Eich had made comments telling his friends to keep away from faggots, if he’d used any such terminology or had ever been shown to have discriminated against gays in the workplace or in his daily interactions, then his case would be very similar. But no such comments are in the public or private record, and there’s zero evidence that he ever acted in the workplace to harm gay employees. Au contraire, which is why gay Mozilla employees were divided about his ouster, with some supporting him. Sterling’s remarks, in contrast, reveal him to be a crude, foul bigot – which is why there is no division at all among African-Americans in the league – or beyond the league – about his fate…

Now I have long argued that civil unions are no substitute for civil marriage – but am I prepared to say that everyone who disagrees with me is motivated by the kind of rank bigotry that Sterling represents? Of course not. That was the position of the Human Rights Campaign for many years, after all. They may be tools, opportunists, resource-hoggers and credit-grabbers, but they’re not bigots. It was the middle ground favored by at least a third of Americans at one point. They weren’t and aren’t all bigots of the Sterling variety. And I think the term “bigot” should be reserved for those like Sterling who have demonstrated it without a shadow of a doubt.

***

But as league observers parse out blame for the first public relations crisis of Silver’s tenure, another group deserves some: NBA players. Although the recording is potentially the first inconvertible audio proof that Sterling is a dunderhead racist, many players were aware of his wrongheaded views.

Yet there wasn’t much uproar following Sterling’s sworn testimony in a 2002 housing discrimination case, during which the NBA’s longest-tenured owner said African Americans “smell and aren’t clean.” Throughout the years, high-profile players refused to challenge owners on their lack of action against Sterling, unwilling to risk their celebrity status and multimillion-dollar endorsement deals.

The fact they didn’t, at least not en masse, contributed to this mess. So what is different about this case that makes many players express outrage now? It’s obvious: Sterling allegedly attacked one of their own.

***

Sterling has long been the kind of guy the NAACP should be protesting, not giving two lifetime achievement awards to, for God’s sake…

I get it, I get why: Because, of course, Sterling had compromised himself on numerous occasions, which of course then gives the NAACP a way to wheedle money out of him for itself and for causes it approves of, and Sterling is himself interested in buying some latitude from the NAACP.

So both parties enter a mutually beneficial transaction: The NAACP gets money, which it needs, and Sterling gets a pass, and maybe even two Lifetime Achievement awards, which he needs.

But while I understand it, I also understand it’s a very shady transaction, and it sure the hell makes the NAACP seem less than principled.

***

White-supremacy culture is created, maintained and run by rich white men, Sterling’s peers. He is the longest-tenured owner in the NBA. Former commissioner David Stern had multiple opportunities to run Sterling out of the league for his bigoted actions. Sterling’s peers have always protected him … until he had the audacity and stupidity to be caught on tape explaining the culture they maintain.

It’s comical to watch the well-intentioned mob circle around Sterling as if his unintended transparency says nothing about his peer group. It’s equally comical seeing this issue framed as a “black issue,” with black people running to suggest ways to clean up Sterling’s mess…

Well-intentioned white people should be holding nationally televised panel discussions focusing on ways to lessen the damaging impact of white-supremacy culture. Well-intentioned white people who work within or support the NBA should be demanding that the NBA power structure cede some of its governing power to men and women who look like the overwhelming majority of the league’s players.

Instead, the mainstream fanned the flames, enraging the angry black mob looking for a quick solution, a sacrificial lamb — and now, by the end of the week, we’ll be back to business as usual, pretending the stoning of Sterling harmed the culture that created him.

***

Silver said in his news conference … if 3/4 of the NBA owners get on board they can force Sterling to sell the team. If that happens it looks like Sterling may well go to legal war.

It sounds like it may come to that.

***