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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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April 29th, 2014
06:00 PM ET

Isiah Thomas: Owners will fall in line to force Sterling out

(CNN) – For NBA Hall of Fame player Isiah Thomas, the man who helped the Detroit Pistons win back-to-back NBA champions in the late 1980s, today "is a great day in sports."

On Tuesday, the NBA Commissioner banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and gave the maximum fine possible for racist remarks slammed by many inside and outside the world's biggest basketball league.

"It's a great day in our society in terms of leadership, and showing what we will and won't stand for," Thomas said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

Commissioner Adam Silver insisted he would do "everything in my power" to compel the NBA Board of Governors to "force a sale" of the Clippers. Under the league's constitution, NBA owners have the right, by three-fourths vote, to revoke ownership, according to Forbes.

"The owners will fall in line, because, you know, this is a place, again, where we take the leadership role in sport," says Thomas.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has condemned Sterling's comments, but also expressed concern that forcing him to sell the Clippers might create a slippery slope. After all, Sterling was recorded illegally, he did not consent to it.

"(Cuban) has a point. But we always have to do what is best for the good of the game, and no one player, no one owner is bigger than the game," says Thomas.

For Thomas, the controversy is a defining moment, an opportunity to openly discuss big issues facing society.

"Let's not just confine it to the sporting arena," says Thomas. "Let's bring it out into society where we can talk about education, we can talk about fair housing, and access to financial resources."

"Discrimination, race, rationalization – those are big words in our society that we need to have conversation about here in America," says Thomas.

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