The L.A. Clippers’ billionaire owner Donald Sterling was slapped with a lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million US fine for his racist comments, but how does that punishment stack up with those handed down in some of the biggest scandals in professional sport?
Here are some of the biggest fines and longest suspensions passed down by professional sports leagues, from the NBA to Formula One racing, during times of scandal — think of it as a lowlight reel.
Mark Cuban and the player formerly known as Ron Artest
If outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban still owns the Dallas Mavericks when he’s Sterling’s age, he’ll likely pay far more than the $2.5 million in fines Sterling now owes the league.
Cuban’s outbursts about referees and rival players, coupled with his general inability to avoid controversial statements, have cost the Mavs owner over $1.8 million since he bought the team in 2000.
According to BleacherReport.com, which pored over Cuban’s troubled history, he accounts for 10 per cent of all fines paid to the NBA since 2000.
In 2002, Cuban was fined $500,000 for blasting the NBA’s director of officials by saying, "Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen."
To his credit, Cuban is a good sport about the fines. The Mavericks owner says he matches his fines with donations to charities.
Suspension-wise, Sterling’s lifetime ban brings back memories of another NBA crisis.
During a 2004 game in Detroit, the Indiana Pacers’ Ron Artest (who now goes by Metta World Peace and plays for the Lakers) charged into the crowd to fight with a fan.
A slew of players were suspended and fined for their involvement in the brawl, but Artest, who led the charge into the stands, was dealt the most severe punishment: a suspension that totalled 85 games, the longest in NBA history.
Devil of a deal
The New Jersey Devils shocked the hockey world in the summer of 2010 when the team announced it had signed potent Russian scorer Ilya Kovalchuk to a 17-year, $102-million contract.
The NHL was furious with the deal (which was lowered somewhat to $100 million over 15 years). NHL officials said the contract, an incredibly front-loaded deal, violated its collective bargaining agreement.
The NHL fined the Devils $3 million, and took away several of the team’s upcoming draft picks.
Kovalchuk, it turned out, wasn’t worth the hassle for the Devils. He would only play 195 games for the team — scoring 89 times — before retiring from the NHL and moving back to Russia to play.
The New York Yankees, arguably the biggest team in Major League Baseball, are no strangers to controversial billionaire owners.
George Steinbrenner, the team’s longest-serving owner, was first suspended in 1974 after pleading guilty to making an illegal contribution to Richard Nixon’s presidential re-election campaign.
Bowie Kuhn, baseball’s commissioner at the time, told the New York Times that Steinbrenner’s actions off the field had tarnished baseball.
"An essential element of a professional team sport … is the public’s confidence in its integrity," Kuhn said.
"If the public does not believe that a sport is honest, it would be impossible for the sport to succeed."
Steinbrenner was again banned from managing the team in 1990 after he paid a gambler $40,000 to dig up dirt on his star outfielder Dave Winfield, who he thought was underperforming.
Steinbrenner was later re-instated, and would own and manage the Yankees until his two sons succeeded him in 2006. He died in 2010.
F1’s big bust
In 2007, Formula One racing was rocked by news that the McLaren team had been spying on its rival Ferrari in an effort to get ahead.
The World Motor Sports Council fined McLaren $100 million US, and the British racing team lost its chance at winning the coveted constructors’ championship.
The scandal broke when a McLaren engineer was found to have a 780-page technical dossier about rival Ferrari’s cars, which was slipped to him by a mechanic.
Lance Armstrong’s new reality
Lance Armstrong, once seen as the brave cancer-conquering American who defeated Europe’s elite cyclists at their own game, is now regarded as a villain on two wheels.
Last year, Armstrong admitted to a lengthy history of doping that helped him capture a record seven Tour de France titles. Armstrong, who took home millions in endorsement money from the likes of Nike, Oakley and Trek, not to mention the prize money from all those races, is now facing a pile of lawsuits from parties trying to get that money back.
Armstrong was once estimated to be worth over $100 million. Today, the disgraced Texas cyclist is at risk of losing almost all of his money, recent profiles have revealed.
Suspension-wise, it’s safe to say Armstrong will never again ride in the Tour de France.
"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling," said Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union on the day Armstrong was stripped of his titles.