TMZ first released an audiotape of the Los Angeles Clippers owner having an obscene conversation with girlfriend V. Stiviano. Deadspin later released a second, extended version of the alleged discussion.
In response to the ongoing saga, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who is now the NBA Players Association's point man for the Sterling proceedings, spoke with reporters at halftime of Game 3 between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors.
During his abbreviated press conference, Johnson addressed a number of concerns. Per BasketballInsider.com's Nate Duncan, he stressed the importance of players being involved in the disciplinary process:
Johnson: Wants player association involvement in Sterling action— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) April 27, 2014
As part of his punishment, the players apparently want to ensure Sterling remains far, far away from his team for the rest of this season:
Johnson: No Sterling appearances at playoff games wanted— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) April 27, 2014
Beyond this one incident, the players also want to know why Sterling hasn't been reprimanded before:
Johnson: Why no accounting for previous Sterling racism?— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) April 27, 2014
This isn't the first time Sterling has been at the center of such controversy. Not even close.
In 2006, he was sued by the Department of Justice for "housing discrimination," per The Associated Press (via ESPN). Roughly three years later, Sterling paid a record $2.725 million to settle the suit, according to the Los Angeles Times' Scott Glover.
Past transgressions in mind, Johnson wants to know how drastic the repercussions for Sterling's comments will be:
Johnson: Wants to know max punishment Sterling can get.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) April 27, 2014
The extent of Sterling's punishment remains unclear. Commissioner Adam Silver hasn't even committed to giving him one until all facts are known.
"All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy," Silver said Saturday, via ESPN's Brian Windhorst. "The core of the investigation is understanding whether the tape is authentic, interviewing Mr. Sterling and interviewing the woman as well and understanding the context in which it was recorded."
Despite the uncertainty of this situation, Johnson apparently expects a quick verdict to be rendered, according to Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears:
"the players are outraged. Due process has to take place," Kevin Johnson. KJ expects quick decision. Players also want to know max sanctions— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) April 27, 2014
Kevin Johnson added that he hopes the NBA makes a strong decision on Sterling before Game 5 on Tuesday in LA.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) April 27, 2014
To say players are outraged over recent events would be a gross understatement. Since the audiotape was released, more than a few players have stepped forward to express their frustrations.
"But there's no room for Donald Sterling in our league," Miami Heat superstar LeBron James said, per Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick. "There's no room for him."
Most of those who have come forward with their opinions share James' feelings. Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who Sterling mentioned by name during his imbecilic diatribe, thinks he should be excommunicated from the Association entirely.
Given the magnitude of Sterling's latest display of intolerance, there's really no question that the players should have some sort of say in what happens moving forward. This is something that didn't impact just the Clippers but the entire NBA. And it could not have happened at a more inopportune time.
The playoffs are in full swing. Now, when the Clippers and the rest of the NBA's teams should be focusing on the importance of the games at hand, they're subject to Sterling's prejudicial invective and all the questions and distractions that come with it.
Should the players have a say in how Sterling is punished?
Although the postseason has been exciting enough early on to power through the dense, dark cloud Sterling has cast over the league, this cannot be swept under the rug. If the audiotape is validated, an example must be made of Sterling, who is a repeat offender of this type of behavior.
Whatever punishment is handed down to him must fit the injustice. His comments were vile and unacceptable, and while due process is necessary, they must inevitably be treated as such.
And since the players were the subject of the matter in question, allowing them to impact the post-investigation proceedings isn't unreasonable.
At this point, involving them seems like one of the few rights that can come out of this wrong-filled situation.