May 5th, 2014
05:00 PM ET
5 months ago

Poll: Should Donald Sterling be forced to sell his team?

(CNN) - A new national poll indicates Americans are split over whether NBA owners should force Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers after racial comments he made became public.

According to the CNN/ORC International poll released Monday, 47% of the public supports a forced sell of the team, while 50% are against it.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced last week he would find Sterling $2.5 million and ban him from the league for life. Silver also said he would work with the NBA's other owners to urge Sterling to sell.

While 47% of all Americans think Sterling should be forced to give up his team, that number changes when the poll focuses on people who identify themselves as NBA fans. Sixty-percent of those who describe themselves as fans of professional basketball support stripping the team of its owner, compared to 41% who are not fans of the NBA.

Overall, two-thirds of all Americans say that race relations in the U.S. are good, although fewer than one in 10 would describe relations as very good. There is little different between white and non-white on the issue, with 67% of whites saying race relations are good and 66% of non-whites saying the same thing.

It's worth noting that too few blacks, Latinos or Asians are in the sample to show results for individual non-white groups.

"Generally speaking, the number of Americans who say that race relations are good is much higher than in the first few years of the 21st century, and quite a bit higher than in the 1990s," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But that number has also been on the decline since 2009."

The poll comes after a CBS News/New York Times survey released on Friday indicated 49% of Americans think Sterling should sell the Clippers, while 40% think he should not. The survey showed that many Americans express hesitation about punishing people based on private conversations that are later made public. According to the survey, 50% think it's unacceptable, while 42% think it's OK.

If Sterling does sell the team, he'd profit considerably. He bought the Clippers for $12 million in 1981, and the team is now worth $575 million, according to Forbes magazine.

The Clippers will face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday in the Western Conference semifinals.

The survey was conducted May 2-4 for CNN by ORC International, with 1,008 adult nationwide – including 307 fans of professional basketball – questioned by telephone. The sampling error among adult Americans is plus or minus three percentage points, while the sampling error among NBA fans 5.5 percentage points.

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this story.


Filed under: Polls
soundoff (354 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    IF he is not forced to sell the team, then all of the players and coaches should be given the option of staying with the team or not and should be let out of their contracts without penalty, if they choose to leave. I know that I would never want to work for an organization that has a racist as an owner. I don't care if he made the comments in a private setting or not. I see no difference between Sterling and those who decide to live and work by their religious beliefs. You cannot tell me that he did not make business decisions with his racist views in mind. No one should be forced to work for him. And no other owner should be forced to suffer the consequences of his racial rant. As I understand it, they share profits, or something like that, as owners. They didn't make the comments. Why should they pay for them? They voted him into the league and they certainly have the right to vote him out. Unfortunately, some people mistakenly believe that this is a free speech issue, when that actually doesn't apply. The NBA is a private organization that is taking action against him. The gov't is not doing anything to him.

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  2. Brian

    If he has to sell, he laugh all the way to the bank. I'm tired of everybody playing the "Prejudice", when something is said they don't like. This is a free country and we can still speak our mind. Cry babies get over it!!!

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  3. Greyrooster

    He has the right to freedom of speech. His crap isn't any worse than Louis Farrakhans racist crap. I don't approve of his actions, speech or the company he keeps. But you can't interfere with a person's speech if it doesn't call for harm to anyone. Also it was a private conversion. Ever listen to a bunch of black people when they think a white person isn't around. Should we take their property. Ban them from public events? Not allow them to have private ownership? Fine them millions? This is over reaction to what a silly old fart said. He says he doesn't wish this stanky woman to bring blacks with her to HIS team games. Well the black police officers association doesn't want you to bring white people with you to their meetings. How about the black caucus? Seen many white folks there lately? This is in California. Where prison inmates are segregated by race.

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  4. Nancy

    Reverend Al Sharpton states facts about Prejudice Racist White people that you guys want to deny!!! Get a clue. And also look up the word Racist, we get the definition mixed up with Prejudice. Reverend Al Sharpton is not a racist. Now on the subject of Mr. Sterling, truth be told, most African Americans are not surprised by his statements. Most old white people feel the same and use that language everyday. I grew up in the 60's and 70's and the same racial hatred toward African Americans still exist today, the proof is mentioned in the above comments. So sad.

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. Myman

    We all say something nasty when we are mad about something that happened that we don't like. What the problem is here is the relationship of the girlfriend with some of the players or even ex players. Mr. Black Jordan has been trying to buy the Clippers for a long time.

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. Dick

    He should keep the team, too much politics and not enough freedom of speech. The trash talk of the music industry and peoples fast judgment of race. No fine either. Who is the NBA. More liberals.

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  7. Leslie

    I have no strong opinion in either direction. Yes, what he said was wrong (in my view), but as many of you have pointed out, he is allowed freedom of speech and he was speaking semi-privately (he knew he was being recorded). I would like to point out that the real issue is that he is a representative of the NBA. The NBA does not uphold his racist views and do not want the brand to be associated with racism. Continuing to keep him as a representative of the NBA would bring millions of dollars in losses.

    Anon2, no a poll is not just a poll. If more blacks, latinos and asians were included in the survey, the percentage would definitely be lower that 66%. To see how the population REALLY feels about race relations, a stratified sample should have been taken to represent the nation as a whole. I think the author did a great job mentioning the demographics of those who took the survey.

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  8. Nora Gleadow

    No – Once you begin to demolish the foundation, that the United States of America was founded on, (freedom of speech, which in this instance was in private, then nothing is stable. All of America will be judged on the next issue instead of staying true to the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. We have already begun to pull away; it's time to step back and look where we are headed.

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  9. Michael

    NO! He should not have to sell his team. This is an overreaction from the politically correct police.

    His comments, while mildly offensive, hardly rose high on the racism scale.

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  10. Lancers3

    Hell NO!...If every man or woman who ever made a racist comment lost their business there wouldn't be any jobs. Also, I'm sick of political correctness; America has turned into a society of pathetic wimps.

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  11. Joey

    What he said was stupid, but he shouldn't have to sell his team. People have the right to boycott his team and his team's merchandise.

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  12. David

    If they force him to sell his team they should make all of the player that utter racial slurs to forfeit their salary! Oh You mean that's different huh!

    May 5, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  13. Luke

    The polls are loaded -every African American and everyone in a postion to be polically correct and would stand a chance to loose any money is dead set against Sterling. The vast majority like the people making comments now, show some sense and say he should not.

    May 5, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. woodlander2

    I would like to ask Magic Johnson or others that have express a judgement of Sterling, if you heard your wealthy Black friend in his 60's who owned a high end restaurant, tell his half white half latino 20 something girl friend, don't disrespect me by bringing your white men friends in the restaurant or posting photos with white men on social media so that all my business friends are asking why you are with other men. Magic, would the first thing you said to your friend is you are a racist and I don't want to be your friend or business partner.

    May 5, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  15. Terri Pelchat

    No. Where is the outrage for a married man telling his girlfriend who she can socialize with? Where are the believers in the "war on women?" Oh, that's right, it does not trump the race card when it comes to sensational news.

    May 5, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  16. Martha

    Are you kidding me? What happened to freedom of speech?
    This man has been doing this for how many years and now you are going to make a big deal about it? This is what I hate about the media. They never know when to stop. People should stop listening to the news because depending on which way your thinking goes is how you will interpret stories.
    The people in this country lets criminals get away with killing, raping, and stealing stuff, thats worse than WORDS. Get off this racial stuff and move on. At some point in life we are all discriminated against.
    Hes a lucky man to have money and buy things. No One told Beyonce not to go to Cuba or all those actors buying babies in third world countries.

    May 5, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  17. Cyndi

    NO, its called free speech. It was done privately and used against him for personal gain so double NO. I don't have to like my boss and my boss doesn't have to like me; we just need to get the job done.

    May 5, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  18. Name

    So legally will DS have to sell? That's the 64K question.

    May 5, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  19. bmullan

    The owner may be racist ... but I'll bet a large number of players on all sides of the racial spectrum in the NFL or NBA are also. I think people ought to talk about this more as a problem with Professional Sports as a whole.

    May 5, 2014 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  20. DT

    I don't care what Sterling or the NBA does or says. These are for profit people that reap what they sow. The government should not have a single thing to say about it however. That is where the First Amendment would kick in.

    May 5, 2014 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  21. Tom Vogler

    No, the NBA should not force him to sell. He has been revealed to be a racist. The government should seize the team from him along with the vast majority of his assets and put him in prison.

    May 5, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  22. cc

    This is not an issue for fans to decide,it's the league's. The NBA is a Business, the Owners who make up the league have a right to choose who, how, when, what business they pursue and with whom. Sterling is BAD for business, he was outed for views that most people despise, and the corporate backers have already started taking away their support from the team. If this happens to the other Owners in the league they will have no choice but to cut ties with Sterling.

    May 5, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  23. qsmurf

    Most Americans don't bother to dig any deeper on race relations than what they observe in their own personal lives and tiny worlds.

    Without looking into the bigger picture of how minorities are still subtly discriminated against, most Americans tend to only see the superficial nature of race relations, which appear seemingly okay, and miss the disproportionate application of our laws and system in general to those minorities over whites.

    May 5, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "People have the right to boycott his team and his team's merchandise."

    And you know what? He no doubt signed all sorts of contracts to become a franchise owner in the NBA and this is all about the CONTRACTS. This has NOTHING to do with "free speech." It has to do with BUSINESS CONTRACTS in a "free market.' HE SIGNED THEM. HE agreed to their terms, including the power structure of the league and how its voting procedures, systems and decision-making work, INCLUDING when and for what reasons the board can vote to boot a franchise owner from the league and force a sale. This has absolutely nothing to do with the Constitution or the 1st Amendment. NOTHING. This in now way, shape or form involves ANY governmental action, which is the only thing that "free speech" refers to. When it winds up in court, it will be a CONTRACT suit, not a suit for violation of Sterling's "civil rights" (and if the attorneys who bring it tack that on under Section 1983 of the USC, then they're bringing a frivolous suit).

    "Are you kidding me? What happened to freedom of speech?"

    Freedom of speech has absolutely nothing to do with Sterling's situation. Freedom of speech refers to the GOVERNMENT not being allowed to MAKE LAWS about what it's ok to say or what opinions to have, etc., and then punish you for breaking them. This is all about CONTRACTS.

    Sterling signed myriad contracts with the NBA to become a franchise owner. Those contracts no doubt contain clauses about what kind of behavior is ok (with a focus on not publicly embarrassing the league, causing major controversies, etc.), what circumstances permit termination or forcing him to sell, what the entire hierarchical power structure of league is, what procedures must be followed for votes, who is doing the voting, etc. If the appropriate board/people vote to force him out, they will do so under very strict contract provisions THAT HE SIGNED AND THAT DEFINE HIS RIGHTS AND THE LEAGUE'S RIGHTS IN THIS SITUATION. This has nothing to do with the Constitution or civil rights. NOTHING. It is 100% entirely about the contract rights involved in his FREE MARKET BUSINESS ARRANGEMENTS with the league, and what the documents say and what Sterling himself agreed to in terms of who holds the corporate power and who has what rights, authorities and obligations UNDER THE CONTRACTS. Get over it. Anything that happens to him will end up in court as a CONTRACT lawsuit...not under Section 1983 of the US Code as a civil rights violation.

    People yammering 'free speech don't have the slightest d-mn clue what they're talking about.

    May 5, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  25. Lonnie

    Don't let polls desract you from truth. It is NOT the comments he made that will cost him the team. It is all of his racist antics over the years. No one thing would do it alone.

    May 5, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
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