Wizards respond to Donald Sterling’s lifetime ban


Before Tuesday’s game, Wizards Coach Randy Wittman spoke about Donald Sterling’s punishment (Toni Sandys/The Washington Post)

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced at a Tuesday afternoon news conference that the league has banned Los Angeles Clippers Donald Sterling for life and fined him the maximum penalty of $2.5 million. The unprecedented penalty stemmed from Silver’s findings following an investigation into racially charged comments by Sterling that were recently caught on tape.

Numerous NBA players, coaches and organizations responded positively to the move by Silver, including the Wizards in the hours before Tuesday’s Game 5 against the Chicago Bulls in their first-round playoff series.

In a statement released by the Monumental Sports & Entertainment ownership group, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis wrote:

“Monumental Sports & Entertainment has a diverse ownership group, and we respect and value that diversity. Our group applauds the swift, strict actions and recommendations set forth today by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Commissioner Silver is taking a strong stance, but all of us need to play a role as we strive to eliminate discrimination and intolerance.”

Silver said Tuesday that he’s strongly urged the NBA’s 29 other owners, including Leonsis, to force Sterling to sell the team via the NBA’s bylaws, which require a 3/4 majority vote by the owners to remove Sterling.

Wizards Coach Randy Wittman also applauded Silver’s actions, saying he was “pleased” with the ruling.

“I think the commissioner took a stance that he was sending a message, and one that should’ve been sent,” Wittman said before Tuesday’s game. “So I think now is the time to let things happen, the due process, now it’s time to let things heal a little bit. Hopefully we don’t have to ever deal with something like this ever again.”

The saga is far from over for the Clippers, who will be the center of the nation’s attention when they take the floor for tonight’s Game 5 against Golden State in Los Angeles. Wittman said he’s talked with Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, whom he played alongside on the Atlanta Hawks in the 1980s, and has offered support.

“I think he’s handled it well, as well you can handle it,” Wittman said. “If there’s one coach that can probably handle that as well as anybody, it’s Doc. I just wanted to be there to support him and try to get his mind back to where it should be and that’s playing basketball. Hopefully after today, that can happen. I can’t imagine having to deal with something like that, when you’re worried about beating a team in a playoff series.”

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