NBA Players Were Ready to Walk if Sterling Was Lightly Punished

Image: NBA Players Were Ready to Walk if Sterling Was Lightly Punished Chris Paul, left, and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers shake hands as they come out of a time out against the Golden State Warriors in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on April 29. The Clippers won 113-103.

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2014 07:52 PM

By Cathy Burke

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National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver reportedly handed out a banned-for-life punishment to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to avert a players’ boycott of playoff games.

NBA official Roger Mason Jr. told The Washington Post Wednesday players were so angry about Sterling’s racist comments they were ready to walk out Tuesday night if Sterling's punishment wasn't tough enough.

"I heard from our players and all of our players felt like boycotting the games [Tuesday night]," Mason told the newspaper. "We’re talking about all NBA players. We’re talking about the playoff games...."

Games between the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors and Clippers would have been affected, The Post noted.

"I reached out to other players around the league and made it clear the players were ready to boycott the games if this type of action was not something that Adam Silver felt was necessary," Mason said.

Silver's first instinct was to mete out a far lighter punishment, the International Business Times reported Wednesday.

In a text message from Silver to retired sportswriter Peter Vecsey, the commissioner said he wasn't inclined to strip Sterling of the team he'd owned for more than three decades, Vecsey told the newspaper.

"I sent him a text, 'Could you tell me what is the maximum you could do? I want to tweet it,'" Vecsey said, adding Silver texted back: 'one-year suspension and a $1 million fine.'

Vecsey tweeted the news that night.

But Vescey said it became clear a light punishment "would not play well with the players."

Silver denied he specified "one-year" for suspension in his text to his friend.

Silver ultimately banished Sterling "for life" while announcing his intent to persuade other NBA owners to force a sale of the Clippers. He also was fined $2.5 million.

The threatened walk-out came in reaction to Sterling’s comments in an April 9 conversation with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano -- which the gossip website TMZ first released -- in which he scolded Stiviano for socializing with blacks, including former L.A. Lakers icon Magic Johnson.

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