The National Basketball Association (NBA) came down hard on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on Tuesday, banning him for life for “deeply offensive and harmful” racist comments that sparked a national firestorm.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hit Mr. Sterling with every penalty at his disposal, fining him a maximum $2.5 million dollars and calling on other owners to force him to sell his team.

The swift, sharp reaction drew praise from around the league and buoyed Clippers players, who defeated the Golden State Warriors.

“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Mr. Silver told a news conference in New York. “That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage.”

The punishment means real estate tycoon Mr. Sterling cannot attend any National Basketball Association (NBA) games or workouts, appear at any Clippers office or facility, or make any business or personnel decisions for the club.

Mr. Silver said he will urge NBA owners to force Mr. Sterling to sell. That would require three-quarters of the owners to agree, and Mr. Silver said he fully expected to get the necessary support.

Fans, torn by love for the team and dismay at Mr. Sterling, were also soothed by the NBA’s hard stance and greeted the Clippers rapturously before a game. “Hate will never win,” read one sign held by a fan. “Rise above” said another. More than a dozen sponsors severed or suspended their relationships with the Clippers, but the market value of the team is still expected to approach $600 million. — AFP