In the next logical step to severing ties with the Donald Sterling administration, Clippers president Andy Roeser is taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately, the NBA announced Tuesday.
Though Roeser was put in charge of day-to-day operations after Sterling’s lifetime ban last week, it was only a matter of time before the league office stepped in and suspended his duties. Roeser, who has been team president since 1986, has long been Sterling’s right-hand man — dating back 30 years to Sterling’s pre-Clippers real estate days — and keeping him in charge would send the wrong message to fans, players and sponsors, regardless of his current relationship or level of involvement with Sterling.
As ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne reported last week, Roeser was forced to release a defiant, misguided statement to the press regarding the racist TMZ recordings and Sterling’s involvement. The Clippers, and Roeser specifically because his name was attribtued to the statement, took a lot of flak for it.
“This will provide an opportunity for a new CEO to begin on a clean slate and for the team to stabilize under difficult circumstances,” NBA Executive Vice President, Communications, Mike Bass said.
It is unclear if Roeser will return to the team in the same role or in a different capacity, but it isn’t likely. The NBA announced last week that it will appoint a CEO to oversee the team’s day-to-day operations, and that move will likely happen later this week or early next.
ESPN LA’s Arash Markazi delves deeper into the issue:
Roeser, one of the Clippers’ two alternate governors besides Sterling, had been in charge of the team since Silver’s announcement. However, he drew the ire of many in the organization after he released a statement initially giving Sterling the benefit of the doubt in the wake of the owner’s controversial comments.
“I think that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “And Andy said right away that was the wrong statement. He apologized for that and then we moved on.”
Rivers, who is also the team’s senior vice president of basketball operations, will continue to run the basketball side with vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks. Rivers was meeting with his players when he found out about Roeser and said he was surprised by the news.
“I knew they were going to bring in a new CEO eventually,” Rivers said. “But it does [surprise me]. I’m glad that I didn’t know about it, honestly. I think the NBA is doing their job and we’re just trying to keep this thing together.”
Rivers said he has no idea who he reports to now but that he didn’t have to report much to Roeser, who mainly handled the business side of the Clippers.
“Andy basically let me know I needed to do,” Rivers said. “I would have to call him every once in a while about stuff. It’s nothing big, and the next couple of weeks the [CEO] is going to be decided anyway and the league understands that.”
NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum addressed Clippers employees last Saturday at Staples Center to brief them on the situation. Rivers will be consulted on the search for the CEO, according to sources, with the league expected to make a decision on the position soon.
“I’ve talked to Adam a couple of times, but I told him that right now is not the time for me,” Rivers said. “Adam and them have been good, and if I need to know something they’ve told me, and if I check my phone they probably told me about this, but I just haven’t checked my phone.”