May 5th, 2014
05:00 PM ET
4 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. BobInIrvine

    The real issue is whether he should be punished for private utterances illegally released by a third party who promised revenge because of a lawsuit.

    What was said was abhorrent. That it was released is abhorrent.

    But with the genie out of the bottle, there's nothing really to do but to force the sale. With a $900M profit awaiting Mr. Sterling, he still makes out financially.

    And I'm betting we won't be seeing Sterling's mug plastered all over the LA Times in his self-aggrandizing adverts.

    May 5, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  2. john pickett

    Hold a lottery & sell tickets

    May 5, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  3. m123

    Only if you force every other owner who ever said anything racially insensitive to sell also.
    The thought police are out in full force here

    May 5, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  4. Bill

    The question is a red herring.

    Being a government protected monopoly, the NBA is a "government agent", and should therefore be required to respect the US Constitution's protection of Free Speech.

    Otherwise, we should be allowed to start a different professional basketball association that does business as we think it should do business.

    May 5, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  5. Hear me now

    There's some confusion about the rationale for stripping Mr. Sterling of his team. The reason its appropriate is that he's an employer with stated biases against his employees and customers. If you've ever discovered that your boss has a bias against you, you know how that feels. It has real potential consequences, unfair pay being among the most significant.

    Imagine, whoever you are, that you learn that your boss said, "I don't like ___________" Don't bring that type of person around me. Try not to look like that kind of person.

    The penalty is appropriate because he is an employer. As such, his biases - toward any group - are inappropriate.

    May 5, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  6. james86

    Many people have wrecked their careers or lost their memberships in private clubs over freedom of speak.

    May 5, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  7. Mike Diana

    NO Period .

    May 5, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  8. james86

    If you say the wrong things at the time to the wrong people You can lose it all !! And it has nothing to do with race !! A person who thinks that he or she can say anything because of freedom of speak can make things very hard for themselves. And that's a fact !!

    May 5, 2014 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  9. Tommy

    The NBA is an association with franchises. If your actions, whether public or in private, are broadcast across the country, and do not align with the values of the league collectively, action will, and can be taken. The Clippers are a franchise in the NBA, and the it is within the rights of the NBA to act within their best interests. Unfortunately, the constitution has no foothold in the court of public opinion. I think that if Sterling does not sell, Adam Silver will not allow the team to compete, therefore hurting the value of the Clippers and other franchises. This may be the one time in his life Donald Sterling will not be able to buy his way out of a problem, and if any of you think this is violating his rights check the charter, NBA is acting within it's legal parameters.

    May 5, 2014 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  10. FedUpInSeattle

    Being from a family of heavily mixed race, white, black, Hispanic and Filipino I find Sterling's comments unacceptable and he now has to live with the consequences of his words. BUT if he is going to be forced to sell vs. letting the players and association shame him to no end, then also should the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton be held to the same standard. One could make the case that Sharpton's racist rants have lead to actual physical harm and death. Be it the death of Yankel Rosenbaum or the Freddy's Fashion Mart victims or the false accusation against the Duke players? I don't see anyone demanding that he cash out on any of his business interest?

    May 5, 2014 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  11. Kay

    Although I am appalled by the behavior, I am proud that in the US people are finally standing up against racist comments. It is real progress in my lifetime, believe me. However, we do live in a country that provides for free speech. I don't know what the NBA rules are and if he's broken the rules of conduct or signed a contractual agreement against such behavior, then I agree with the ruling. Otherwise, I don't agree with having to sell the team. Players would play for him and he'd have to pay a premium for those players. People can stop going to the games, forcing him to sell. But forcing someone in the US to sell a team because of his racism seems wrong to me. We still have the KKK going strong for God's sake, in the 21st century!!! As far as we have come, there is still so far to go and so much to accomplish toward loving one another, no matter what race, religion, gender, sexual preference.

    May 5, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    The issue at hand here is far more than just the tape. There is a history of high profile court cases centered around racial discrimination involving Donald Sterling. The tape was simply the whistle blowing.

    The validity of the poll is being questioned by many here, and CNN itself. Most will point to the sample group and their respective races. Race is independently related here. The race of those surveyed does not matter – their information and education on this situation does matter.

    May 5, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  13. Frank

    What Sterling said was WRONG. I get it. But the conditions under which these comments were obtained were also WRONG. You don't /can't convict someone if the evidence was illegally obtained. The NBA has the right to fine Sterling and also bar him from attending games. I do not feel they have the right to make him sell his team. These were private conversations between him and his skank girlfriend. As any of these HATERS if they say or have heard racist comments and should that person be forced to sell personal assets? No one is going to FORCE people to be less racist, this is something that will come about in time. Sterling missed the boat and is an old guy with old views. Does not make him a criminal, only a jerk. Concerned if we can force this on him, what is next for the rest of us?

    May 5, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  14. Thomas

    He shouldn't have ever been able to own the team .

    It's a privately owned team using publicly owned infrastructure and services .

    May 5, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  15. Meg Quigley

    No, while I strongly disagree with his comments, I strongly believe in his right to say those comments. This is freedom of speech and the right of privacy in one's own home. CNN like most media is simply out for the story. If someone came to me saying I have a recording of a private conversation, I would hope my response would be, its none of my business. I don't want to hear it. I disagree with what others say, but I respect their right to say it.

    May 5, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  16. dao

    It is not a freedom of speech issue, as levels of decorum can be dictated by an organization of which a person my be a member (more on that later). This is about right to privacy and fair treatment. If Sterling did not give permission to be recorded, then his escort broke the law by doing so and disseminating it, as per the state of California. To reiterate others, if a code of conduct is expected to be in this league, has Mr. Sterling committed an offense to warrant expulsion? Have Black Muslim players ever expressed anti-Jewish sentiments? Have you read any of the off-putting comments made directly to Jeffrey Lin or Yao Ming? These transgression are probably far worse than Mr. Sterling who at least put on a facade of being a fair boss with regard to race in his hirings. The "slippery slope" Marc Cuban mentioned is the witch hunt that could occur... and with a knife that could cut both ways.

    May 5, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  17. Chris

    He may have a right to say/believe whatever he wants. However, his players and coaches are under a contract. Let him keep the team, but let everyone that wants to be let out of their contract; be let out of their contract

    May 5, 2014 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  18. waterlily34

    People need to stop with this Freedom of Speech crap!! What does 1st Amendment Freedom of Speech have anything to do with this Donald Sterling situation? Freedom of Speech simply means, speech that is free from government interference. Sterling is not sitting in jail nor did anyone interfere with his speech. I am thoroughly convinced that people making the deflective "Freedom of Speech" argument for Sterling are low-key defending Sterling's mentality and behavior towards African Americans. The NBA took appropriate action banning Sterling for life and the NBA owners should use everything in their legal power to force him out. I wonder if Sterling was on record disparaging dogs and cats, would people be throwing out this freedom of speech foolishness?

    May 5, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  19. Brian

    If Ukraine is invaded by Russia, does that mean the NBA will take the Brooklyn Nets away from Mikhail Prokhorov?? Where does the line get drawn? This is capitalism- don’t like the owner? Don’t play for him, don’t buy the jerseys! Drive him out the American way!

    May 5, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  20. NameInez

    Yes,from Mr. Sterling.A person like that yes.I do not know what to think of him right now but Direspect.He really disrepected Magic Johnson,any many more black.What he is gonna get is still not enough.He he have so much hate toward Blacks,and Spanish. For one why is he dating.If I was his wife I would divorce him and get all I can get.Really he do not deserve no one but the Devil himself.I know there is still Rasicim,just like bulling and both is horrible.And Sterlling do not need to own the Clippers mostly Black.I do not think even a all white team want him.

    May 5, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  21. Name.

    They should absolutely make him sell the Clippers.

    May 5, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  22. Rusty Krus

    His "Lady" is sure enjoying her 15 minutes. Next year she will be on "Americas Most Stupid Videos" with Tonya Harding.

    May 5, 2014 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  23. Zenith

    He shouldn't have to sell. The players shouldn't be forced to play on his team. Win win situation for maintaining free speech. He can keep his team and players can keep their integrity, if they feel that it would go against their integrity to play for him. This is what happens in the real world. People quit if they do not like their boss. Simple.

    May 5, 2014 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  24. Senior Citizen

    Leave the old man alone.

    May 5, 2014 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Everybody claiming he has the freedom of speech in this case, is incorrect. The NBA is a company. If you start saying racist things at work, you can absolutely be fired just like Sterling can be banned for life from the NBA.

    May 5, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
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