NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the move at a press conference on Tuesday, four days after an audio recording of Sterling making racist comments was published online by the website TMZ.
"Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers association or the NBA," Silver said. "Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers facility."
Silver also announced that Sterling had also been fined $2.5 million. Additionally, Silver said, he planned to "urge" the league's board of governors to "exercise its authority to force a sale of the team." Silver said he would everything that he could to "ensure that that happens."
"I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations," Silver said.
The recording published Friday by TMZ captured an argument between Sterling and his girlfriend, identified as V. Stiviano, in which Sterling could be heard telling Stiviano not to bring black people to his games. The argument reportedly took place on April 9, after Stiviano posted a photograph on Instagram of herself posing with NBA legend Magic Johnson. On the tape, Sterling also told Stiviano not to bring Johnson to games.
"You can sleep with [black people]," Sterline says on the tape. "You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that ... and not to bring them to my games."
According to Silver, the league began an investigation into the recordings of Sterling's comments after their release over the weekend. That investigation concluded that the man whose voice on the recording was Sterling, and that "the hateful opinions voiced by that man are those of Mr. Sterling."
"The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful," Silver said. "That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage."
Asked to describe his initial reaction to Sterling's comments, Silver said he had initially hoped the recording wasn't genuine.
"When I first heard it, I was shocked," Silver said. "I was hoping somehow that it was fraudulent or that it had been doctored, that possibly it wasn't indeed Donald Sterling. I've known Donald for over 20 years, so I suspected it was his voice, and we set about immediately investigating. And that was my reaction, to sort of bear down and say let's get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible."
On Sunday, the Clippers organization issued a statement on Sterling's behalf, which stated: "Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings… It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life."
This post has been updated.