TODAY   |  April 28, 2014

Adviser: NBA players want ‘severe sanctions’ on Sterling

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is advising the NBA players union, joins TODAY to discuss the league’s investigation into disparaging comments about African-Americans allegedly made by Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> sacramento mayor kevin johnson was a three-time nba all-star. he's advising the league 's players association on how to respond to these alleged remarks. mayor johnson, nice to see you. how you doing?

>> thanks, matt, doing well.

>> you were with adam silver over the weekend, the nba commissioner. did he tell you that he believes, in fact, this is donald sterling on those tapes?

>> well, i don't want to get into specifics, but i will tell you what was important. that all players feel that these comments were reprehensible and unacceptable. we called an emergency call with an executive committee and player reps. players weighed in. and they wanted me to communicate a few important points to the commissioner, which i did. one is they wanted immediate investigation. they want to make sure that those tapes are legitimate. due process is deserved. number two, mr. sterling should not be allowed to go to any clipper playoff games or participate in the playoffs throughout the duration. number three, they were very clear that the players' voice has to be front and center. the players don't want to be passive participants. they want to make sure they have a seat at the table. number four, they want swift and decisive action. and lastly, they want to make sure that the maximum sanction that adam silver , our commissioner, can do that is allowable under the bylaws is what he does.

>> so again, if this is mr. sterling on the tape, do you want to see him stripped of his ownership? can the league do that? or simply treat him like such a pariah that he has no other choice but to give up the team?

>> i think it's a good question. and from a player standpoint, one, we want to make sure and i want to be clear, whatever the maximum that's allowable is what we want the commissioner to impose. if that allows him to force the sale of an owner, if it allows him to determine whether the fitness of this person is intact and something in question. if it doesn't allow the commissioner to take those acts, it is very clear that all of our players in the league want to explore the option. i mean, i ask you, matt, what player exactly would want to play for this owner?

>> yeah, how could he ever go into a players meeting? how could he attend a game again? let me ask you, there's another side to this. donald sterling has a track record here. according to "the new york times," they wrote that he has an outrageous and public track record of anti-black behavior. there have been some public and legal battles over this in the past. the league knew about this, but he was a rich guy who owned a team. they turned their cheek. they turned their back. does the league bear some responsibility then for some of the headlines that are now exploding?

>> one of the questions that the players wanted me to convey to commissioner silver was if he has such a history and a track record of doing things that were improper and that do not represent the league , why were there not sanctions and consequences in the past?

>> what answers did you get?

>> that's one of the questions that we had.

>> he said, absolutely. it's a fair question. and he said, you know, going forward, he wants to make sure that he acts swiftly and decisively. he's got to be forceful on this. and quite honestly, you know, matt, it's a very good question. and we believe as players there's got to be a two-way accountability. players want to be held accountable to a high standard of conduct. certainly owners need to be held to a high standard .

>> as an african-american and a former player, are you confident the league will distinguish itself in this situation?

>> it's a defining moment in the history of this league . and i am very confident that the commissioner will act in the best interest of the players, the owners in the league and i feel like the only way to do that is to do the most severe sanctions as possible and i do expect him to do that in short order.

>> sacramento mayor kevin johnson . mr. mayor, it's always nice to see you. thank you.

>> thank you.