Clippers owner Sterling banned for life, fined $2.5M

Sterling banned for life
Sterling banned for life

The National Basketball Association banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the game for life and fined him $2.5 million, the maximum amount permitted by association, for racist comments made public over the weekend, the league's commissioner said on Tuesday.

Sterling, the longest-tenured owner of any of the 30 NBA teams, will not be allowed any role in the operations of his team or be able to serve as one of the league's governors, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced at a news conference in New York.

The controversy began over the weekend when the celebrity website released an audio recording with a voice said to be Sterling's criticizing a friend for associating with "black people.''

(Watch the NBA news conference live here)

An investigation into the recording concluded the voice was Sterling's Silver told reporters.

Team owner Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers watches the San Antonio Spurs play against the Memphis Grizzlies during Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 19, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas.
Ronald Martinez | Getty Images

"The man whose voice is heard on the recording and on a second recording from the same conversation that was released on Sunday is Mr. Sterling,'' said Silver, who is confronting his first major crisis since he was named commissioner in February. "The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful.''

Sterling's comments caused a wave of outrage from fans, players and coaches of the league, which was on the forefront of racial integration in U.S. professional sports, all the way to Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, who blasted the "incredibly offensive racist statements.''

The move may not be enough for some critics, who called on Sterling to give up ownership of the team, though observers said the other 29 owners of NBA franchises were not likely to back any move that could set a precedent that would harm their property rights.

Read More Racist comments hit revenue of every team in NBA

Sterling said he would call on the owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the team. Such a move would require approval of three-quarters of the current owners.

Following the NBA announcement, sports heavyweights weighed on Twitter.

Will Donald Sterling be forced to sell Clippers?
Will Donald Sterling be forced to sell Clippers?

Celebrities cheer the decision

Following the NBA announcement, sports heavyweights weighed on Twitter.

(See Magic Johnson's tweet here)

(See Jason collins' tweet here)

(See Dick Costolo's tweet here)

The Los Angeles Clippers released the following statement after the news broke:

"We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today. Now the healing process begins."

Earlier, used car dealership chain CarMax, Virgin America, Daimler's Mercedes-Benz and the Chumash Casino Resort have all said they plan to end their sponsorships of the Clippers.

Another handful are suspending their sponsorships, including State Farm, Kia Motors America, Red Bull, Yokohama Tire, Sprint, Corona, Lumber Liquidators, AquaHydrate and Adidas.

Some advertisers have asked to move their commercials out of the national broadcast of Tuesday's Clippers playoff game against the Golden State Warriors by TNT, owned by Time Warner, and the local airing on a sports channel owned by 21st Century Fox, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Sterling bought Clippers in 1981 at a time when basketball was far less commercially successful than it is today, and the franchise could now be worth as much as $800 million, estimated Robert Boland, chairman of the sports management department at New York University.

The Clippers will hold a pregame news conference later on Tuesday.

An earlier report said that Sterling would be indefinitely suspended and be hit with a $5 million fine.

—By Reuters with CNBC