NBA Owners Meet to Discuss Donald Sterling Problem

Donald Sterling NBA Clippers
Kirby Lee—USA TODAY Sports Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling attends a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 10, 2014.

Many NBA owners want to force Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers quickly after he admitted to making racist comments on a leaked audio recording. But a forced sale must overcome many procedural hurdles, and Sterling could draw out the process

The league’s advisory/finance committee held its first meeting Thursday to discuss ending Donald Sterling’s ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers. The conference call comes just two days after NBA commissioner Adam Silver handed down a lifetime ban to Sterling and said that the owners would force the sale of team.

“The committee unanimously agreed to move forward as expeditiously as possible and will reconvene next week,” NBA executive vice president Mike Bass said in a statement.

As of now, Sterling can have no association with either the team or the league. But Silver thinks the punishment should be more severe for the billionaire who admitted to making racist comments on a tape that was leaked to TMZ. Three quarters of the league’s 30 owners would have to approve a forced sale, according to NBA rules.

Silver was confident during Tuesday’s press conference that he would get the votes to force Sterling to sell, and he’s likely correct. Many team owners came out in support of Silver after his statement. And perhaps even more importantly, a group of NBA players told Silver before his decision on Tuesday that they would boycott the playoffs if Sterling wasn’t severely punished. Influential athletes like Lebron James will probably lobby for votes against Sterling in the unlikely scenario that some owners waver in their decision.

But Sterling may still choose to go down with a fight. League rules mandate that if Sterling does not sell of his own free will, Silver or an owner would have to file a written charge against him. Sterling would have five days to respond, at which point Silver would call a hearing of the board of governors. The board would vote whether to allow Sterling to keep his team after hearing evidence.

Even then, the fact that the Clippers are actually owned by a family trust could further complicate matters. If either Sterling or his estranged wife, Rochelle, file for divorce, they could stall the NBA’s attempts to force a sale by putting the team under the jurisdiction of a California family court while the Sterlings attempt to divide their family property, i.e. the team. Rochelle Sterling distanced herself from her husband after the audio recording of his racist comments emerged and is suing his alleged mistress V. Stiviano. — who is also allegedly the woman to whom Sterling makes the racist comments on the recording — for embezzlement.

However long the process of dethroning Sterling might take, celebrities and billionaires, including Oprah Winfrey and Floyd Mayweather Jr., have already expressed interest in buying the team, who currently lead their first found playoff series against the Golden State Warriors 3-2.

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