NEW YORK – Former Commissioner David Stern praised the NBA's handling of the Donald Sterling controversy and predicts it will "end well" for the league.
Stern said his successor, Adam Silver, has been "forceful" but also "demonstrated a compassionate side" in his reaction to the racist remarks that were made by the Los Angeles Clippers owner.
"He's done great. He has been forceful, he has been reflective, he has been buttoned-down and I think he has also demonstrated a compassionate side as well," Stern told The Associated Press on Wednesday during a phone interview.
"So I think it's going to end well."
Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him for life after the recorded comments became public. Sterling's wife, Shelly, later agreed to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion, a transaction the league believes will close shortly even as Donald Sterling continues trying to fight in court.
Stern retired after 30 years as commissioner in February. He will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next week.
During his tenure, Shelly and Donald Sterling faced allegations that they discriminated against tenants based on race in Los Angeles according to a lawsuit filed by U.S. Department of Justice in 2006. The Sterlings, who at the time owned and managed about 119 apartment buildings or 5,000 apartments throughout Los Angeles County, agreed to settle the suit for $2.725 million.
Stern has remained an adviser to the league and remained in frequent contact with Silver, who worked under him since 1992. Silver was the commissioner for less than three months when TMZ released audio of Sterling's remarks.
Silver handed out his punishment days later and has navigated the league as it tries to oust Sterling, who owned the Clippers franchise even before Stern became commissioner.
"Adam has been a part of the fabric of every important decision and event for the last 22 years," Stern said. "He knows exactly what to do, he's done mostly everything, and he's continuing his run as being a terrific manager."
Sterling still has lawsuits against Silver and the league, though his best attempt to block the sale may have slipped away when a Los Angeles judge ruled Monday that Shelly Sterling had the authority to sell the team.
That's a relief to players, some of whom have said they wouldn't want to play if Sterling is still in the league. New Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said the response to Sterling would likely be on the list of things she would discuss with the players, whose president, Chris Paul, plays for the Clippers. Interim CEO Dick Parsons testified that coach Doc Rivers said he would not return if Sterling did.
"Coach Rivers and Chris Paul and those guys made their statement in what they would do if he was back as an owner. It's very tough to play for someone like that, that came out with a statement," said Washington Wizards guard John Wall, who is trying to make the U.S. national team.
AP freelance writer W.G. Ramirez in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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