Donald Sterling’s Punishment – A Look At How Different Leagues Discipline Owners


By Jay Kirell


News came down early Saturday afternoon that NBA commissioner Adam Silver will be holding a press conference Saturday night to address the controversy over Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his racist comments.

Many former players and many more fans have expressed outrage over Sterling’s taped remarks, with some saying they would find it hard to play for Sterling, and others calling for the league to remove him from Clippers ownership.

With many sports fans and other observers awaiting the NBA’s decision and how they’ll handle Sterling’s comments, I thought it might be useful to look at how all four sports leagues have dealt with team owners who violated league rules:


  • Tennessee owner Bud Adams was fined $250,000 by the NFL for an obscene gesture made after a game.
  • San Francisco 49ers former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was fined $1 million and suspended for the 1999 season following a guilty plea in a Louisiana extortion case.


  • Dallas Mavericks owner Marc Cuban is famous for being fined by the league, having amassed over $2 million in fines since assuming ownership, usually for comments regarding officiating.
  • Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison was fined $500,000 by the league for tweeting about the NBA labor dispute.
  • Atlanta Hawks owner Michael Gearon was fined $35,000 by the league for calling Kevin Garnett a “dirty player.”
  • Charlotte Bobcats former owner Michael Jordan was fined $100,000 by the league for public comments about the collective bargaining process.
  • New Jersey Nets former co-owner Jay-Z was fined $50,000 for being in the locker room of the University of Kentucky basketball team.
  • Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis was fined $100,000 for public comments about the collective bargaining process.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was fined $100,000 for remarks about Lebron James signing with Miami.
  • Los Angeles Lakers former owner Jerry Bus was fined $25,000 and suspended for two games for a DWI arrest.
  • Then-Seattle Supersonics co-owner Aubrey McClendon was fined $250,000 for comments regarding the move of the team to Oklahoma City.
  • Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver was fined $25,000 for complaining about officiating.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was suspended for eight months following the Joe Smith contract incident.


  • Former Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner was suspended by Major League Baseball in 1977 for trying to sign free-agent Gary Matthews before the signing period.
  • Former Philadelphia Phillies owner Horace Fogel was banned from baseball in 1912 after calling league officials corrupt.
  • Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCord was forced out as owner after financially mismanaging the team in 2011.
  • Former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was suspended three separate times by MLB for offenses ranging from illegally supporting the Nixon campaign in the 70s to publically criticizing umpires, to hiring a private investigator to “dig up dirt” on Dave Winfield.
  • Former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was suspended in 1993 and banned from baseball in 1996 for a long history of racist comments towards blacks and Jews as well as public comments sympathetic to Adolph Hitler.


  • Former New York Islanders owner John Spano was removed from ownership and incarcerated after being found out to be a fraud and not a millionaire.
  •  Detroit Red Wings owner Jim Devellano was fined $250,000 for comments made against the NHL.
  • Washington Capitols owner Ted Leonsis was fined $100,000 for tossing a fan to the ground.




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  1. A Modest Proposal For How The NBA Can Kick Out Donald Sterling | the Sterling Road - April 28, 2014

    […] has a limit on the amount a single individual fine, say $500,000 (based on the highest fines levied against Maverics owner Marc Cuban and Heat owner Micky Arison) then threaten to fine him […]


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