Tonight’s NBA playoff game at Staples Center on TNT has just been guaranteed a ratings spike after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver today hammered Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban from the NBA, fined him $2.5 million, and asked other NBA team owners to force Sterling to sell the team, adding he will “do everything in my power to insure that happens.” Silver said it will take a 3/4 vote by owners in favor of forcing Sterling to sell to make it happen. Asked if Sterling could remain owner if 3/4 of the owners do not vote to oust the real-estate magnet, Silver responded confidently, “I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him.”
The biggest TV audience so far for the 2014 NBA Playoffs : 4.73 million viewers clocked Sunday afternoon’s game on TNT. Overall the playoffs are averaging about 3.8 million.
Silver, who’s been commissioner just three months, had been expected to come down on Sterling with the maximum allowable punishment for the racist rant, in which Sterling forbade his mistress from posing for photos with black people or bringing them to Clippers games. During the news conference in NY, Silver apologized to Clippers players and coach Doc Rivers, as well as fans and “partners” of the NBA, saying “the views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful.”
A couple hours after Silver’s news conference ended, syndicated TV show Access Hollywood announced Sterling’s mistress, V. Stiviano, had “spoken out in an exclusive statement” to the program:
“It’s not about Mr. Sterling. It’s about global issues that affects us as a nation as a whole,” she said in the statement, adding, “My story is bigger than racism in sports.”
Many of the team’s corporate sponsors, including such companies as Kia and Carfax, ended or suspended their relationships with the team. This afternoon, Silver urged them to come back. Before Silver began his news conference, which was carried by all of the cable news networks and the broadcast network news operations, a Twitter campaign urging fans to wear all black to tonight’s game against Golden State was already in the works. The first-round series is tied 2-2.
Last night, late night talk show hosts had warmed up the audience for today’s packed, televised news conference. “Sterling def. a racist, but take away his team? Clippers shouldn’t have played yesterday? Calm down, being an asshole is still legal in America,” HBO late night host Bill Maher had tweeted over the weekend — clearly not in sync with Silver’s plans.
“It’s that age old story: ‘I’m racist but my dick and my wallet are not’,” Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart said, noting Sterling has been made rich owning a basketball team that is comprised mostly of black players and that his mistress is mixed race.
“[Sterling’s] comments obviously pose a huge problem for the NBA, because institutionally sanctioned racism has no place in professional sports – except for that team in Washington [D.C] ,” added Craig Ferguson.
Everyone from President Obama to Magic Johnson had weighed in on Sterling’s comments caught on audio tape and made public by TMZ. Silver said Sterling acknowledged the voice was his, during the NBA’s investigation that began Saturday shortly after the tape was released.
Sunday night’s Clippers-Warriors game generated by far the week’s biggest Twitter audience of any TV programming, according to Nielsen. The Los Angeles Clippers’ lopsided loss generated a Twitter audience of nearly 8.1 million people, who saw 590,000 tweets about the game during and the three hours before and after it. That was easily the week’s biggest TV-related audience on Twitter, 2 million more than any other show, and nearly 5 million more than any non-sports event.
The NBA — about three-fourths of whose players are African-American — had announced an immediate investigation after the tape went out, and the league’s players association enlisted former NBA star and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to lobby for a stiff and swift punishment of the 81-year-old billionaire, including banning him from further participation in league playoffs. Before Sunday night’s game, Clippers players turned their warm-up jerseys inside out to obscure team logos.
On Sunday, before the Clippers staged their silent protest, TV news operations covered the fracas. “This guy is an idiot,” CNN’s Don Lemon said of Sterling, “I felt like I was listening to someone from the 1930s, ’40s or ’50s.”
“When you keep a vicious dog and you know that it’s vicious, you can’t be surprised when one day it bites someone,” said sports commentator and Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel on NBC’s Sunday Beltway show Meet The Press.