A day after Heat and other NBA players lauded commissioner Adam Silver’s punishment of Donald Sterling for his racist remarks, LeBron James on Wednesday called for the league’s owners to “step up” and force Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers.
Silver supports such a move, which will require yes votes from 23 of the league’s 29 other owners.
“I was very pleased with Adam Silver’s decision — it was big time,” James said of Silver’s ruling to ban Sterling for life and fine him $2.5 million.
“But the job is still not done,” James continued. “We need the owners to step up and do their part. I believe [the owners’ votes] will be in favor of what we all believe in. I’ve seen some owners say they’re in favor of the decision Adam Silver made, but it’s not all of them. You still need three-fourths of them and I’ve only seen three or four of them comment. We need more than three or four.”
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(Heat owner Micky Arison said Tuesday that Silver “has my full support.”)
James added: “It’s one thing when you try to target this beautiful and powerful game. No one man can ever be bigger than the logo. [Sterling] thought he was bigger than it and now he has to pay for it.”
Asked whether this episode could hurt the league, James said: “In this particular case, what we’re fighting for, I don’t think it can do anything to hurt our game. We’re fighting to get an owner out of our league who shouldn’t be a part of our league.
“No matter how long it takes, no matter how much it costs, we need to get him out of there [and] whoever is associated with him doesn’t belong in our league. It can’t be something that just drags on.”
Former Heat guard Roger Mason Jr., the NBA players union vice president, said at least four teams (Washington, Toronto, Memphis and Oklahoma City) were prepared to boycott their games Tuesday night if they hadn’t been satisfied with Silver’s ruling.
The Golden State players also reportedly were prepared to walk off the floor after tip-off of their game against the Clippers if they had been unhappy with Silver’s decision.
Would Heat players have done the same?
“I don’t know,” James said. “I was prepared to make my next action” if Silver hadn’t ruled as the players hoped.
What would that next action have been? “I don’t have to worry about that now,” James said.
The Heat turned their warm-up jerseys inside out before Game 4 against Charlotte as a show of solidarity, but Udonis Haslem said the Heat never discussed boycotting games.
“If it reached that point, we would have gotten together and discussed it,” Haslem said. “We never had that conservation.”
Said Chris Bosh: “We had time off. Luckily, we didn’t have to really even consider anything like that.”
James was asked whether he finds it disturbing that Sterling was punished for comments made in a conversation he thought was private.
“I don’t think it’s troubling,” he said. “I think it was going to come to light no matter what. Who you are will come to light. You can’t hide. No matter if he said that in the confinement of his family or if he said that by himself, he is who he is. He was that before he owned the Clippers.
“There have been people around him who know who Donald Sterling has been for years. He’s been a part of litigations for a long time, as far as discriminating. When you’re in a position of power, like Donald Sterling is as of today, to have those type of comments, those type of beliefs, you just can’t do it. If he never owned a team, he can do whatever he wants to do.
“But when you’re in position of power to be able to give and take jobs away from people — blacks, whites, Hispanics — you have no right to feel the way you feel and express it out in the open.”
Other Heat player reaction to Silver’s decision:
• Dwyane Wade said Silver “dealt with it as good as you can. He was very strong. As [Sacramento mayor and NBA players association special adviser] Kevin Johnson said, yesterday he was commissioner not only of the owners, but the players. An ugly time for the NBA became a good time for the NBA in the sense of togetherness.”
• Bosh called the ruling “fitting and just,” adding the situation “is good for conversations. I’m glad the commissioner acted swiftly.”
• Ray Allen and Haslem said they are “satisfied” with the ruling. “I have had multiple dialogues with commissioner Silver and he’s very interested in what the players think about the league and working conditions,” Allen said.