NEW YORK -- A majority of Americans think lifetime ban and fine imposed on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was the right punishment, but the public is more divided on whether Sterling should be forced to sell the team.
In response to Sterling's remarks about African-Americans, the National Basketball Association banned him for life from attending games and participating in NBA activities, and fined him $2.5 million.
More than half (55 percent) think this punishment was about right, although more think it was too hard (25 percent) than too lenient (9 percent).
Black Americans (71 percent) are more likely than whites (52 percent) to feel Sterling's punishment by the NBA was appropriate.
Blacks and whites also differ in their opinion about how much other professional sports owners might share Sterling's views. Fifty-four percent of blacks think Sterling's attitudes about African-Americans are widespread among team owners in professional sports. Most whites (63 percent) and a majority of Americans overall (56 percent) do not think these views are widespread.
But many Americans also express concern about a punishment based on a private conversation that was recorded and then made public. When asked if it was acceptable for Sterling to be punished for remarks he made in a private conversation, 50 percent think it is not acceptable. Fewer - 42 percent - think it is acceptable.
On this point majorities of blacks and whites differ markedly. Most blacks (60 percent) think it is acceptable to punish Sterling for the remarks he made in private, while most whites (53 percent) think it is not acceptable.
Looking ahead, 49 percent of Americans think he should be forced to sell the LA Clippers, while 40 percent think he should not. Most African-Americans (71 percent) think Sterling should be forced to sell his team, while whites are divided on the issue.
Americans who have more interest in the sport are more inclined to think Sterling should be forced to sell. Seventy-four percent of Americans who say they are very interested in following professional basketball think Sterling should have to sell the Clippers.
Division between whites and blacks on these issues are reflective of differing views on the state of race relations in the U.S. overall. While most Americans (55 percent) and most whites (60 percent) think race relations in the U.S. are generally good, blacks are divided (46 percent think race relations are good, 46 think they're bad).
Overall, opinions on race relations in the U.S. have changed little since CBS last asked the question in March, though the percentage that says race relations are generally good is down from an all-time high of 66 percent in April 2009.
This poll was conducted by telephone April 30-May 1, 2014 among 1,054 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.
Additional interviews were conducted with African Americans, who had previously completed a survey as part of a random sample, to yield a sample size of 275. 660 whites were interviewed.
The African American and non-African American samples were weighted separately to match their group's population characteristics such as gender, age, education, region, marital status and phone use based on recent U.S. Census estimates. The samples were then combined and weighted to the total U.S. adult population.
The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. The margin of error for the sample of whites is 5 pts and 8 pts for African Americans. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
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