NBC, TMZ Rapped for Mistakes in Sterling Racism Story

U.S. media incorrectly reported Sterling would receive double the fine he ended up with.

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Donald Sterling.
Donald Sterling.Credit: AP

NBC and TMZ are the latest media groups to learn how the irresistible urge for a scoop, even for a matter of minutes, can burn a news organization.

NBC on Tuesday quoted an anonymous source when it incorrectly reported how the NBA was punishing Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racist comments, just minutes before league commissioner Adam Silver announced it.

NBC reported Sterling would be banned indefinitely and fined $5 million. Silver banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million.

NBC tweeted, posted and broadcast its mistake on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC before correcting it after Silver's announcement.

"Our initial reporting was shy of what Silver ultimately decided," NBC's David Gregory said at the end of the network's special report.

ABC, CBS and NBC interrupted regular programming Tuesday to air Silver's announcement.

The website TMZ had a huge scoop last weekend when it initially aired the taped conversation that led to Sterling's ban. Tuesday was less successful.

TMZ cited "sources familiar with the situation" in reporting the wrong punishment about 20 minutes before NBC. TMZ said that Silver had "tentatively decided" to suspend Sterling indefinitely. TMZ similarly couched its report of a $5 million fine by saying it was tentative.

Sterling hasn't commented on his lifetime ban and fine. The penalties, announced only three days after the scandal broke, are the harshest issued by the league and among the stiffest given to an owner in professional sports.

Silver said a league investigation found that Sterling was the person on the audiotapes that were released over the weekend and sent shock waves throughout the game.

On a tape, Sterling tells a woman: "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?"

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