Can the NBA force Donald Sterling to sell team?
TORONTO – Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was slapped with a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine by the NBA on Tuesday following racist and “hateful” comments.
This came after the league launched an investigation into an audio recording released by TMZ and Deadspin of a man identified as Sterling using racially charged comments and urging a girlfriend not to bring black people to his team’s games.
On the tape, Sterling tells a girlfriend “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
At a press conference Tuesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver also said he would do everything in his power to urge the Board of Governors to force Sterling to sell the L.A. Clippers.
This left many wondering — can the NBA force an owner to sell their team?
According to Article 13(a) of the NBA constitution, owners have the right to revoke ownership under specific circumstances.
The Membership of a Member or the interest of any Owner may be terminated by a vote of three fourths (3/4) of the Board of Governors if the Member or Owner shall do or suffer any of the following:
(a) Willfully violate any of the provisions of the Constitution and By-Laws, resolutions, or agreements of the Association.
As stated, they need a three-fourths vote to make this happen. This means 23 of the 29 other owners will need to vote for Sterling to sell.
Owners have their say
A few owners have already expressed their thoughts publicly on the matter.
Micky Arison, owner of the Miami Heat, called the recording “offensive, appalling and very sad.” Michael Jordan, former NBA star and current owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, said in a statement over the weekend “I’m completely disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views.”
WATCH: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Clippers owner Donald Sterling is banned from the league and the Clippers for life over his racist comments.
Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive tweeted on Saturday “If @TMZ recording is true, we must have zero tolerance. Fully support commish Silver @NBA.”
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the group that owns the Toronto Raptors, released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the comments made by Sterling have “no place in our society or sport.”
Who could buy the team?
Forbes estimates the team is worth $575 million, which leaves the pool of potential buyers quite slim.
Magic Johnson, who was personally mentioned by Sterling in the audio recording, is rumoured to be interested in purchasing the team. He has so far denied the rumours even though he has many supporters, including talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.
Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, who tried to buy the Sacramento Kings a year ago, is also being mentioned as a contender. Worth an estimated $2.7 billion, he’s interested in bringing a team back to Seattle and could make an offer.
Sterling, who acquired the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million, has faced federal charges of civil rights violations and racial discrimination in the past. He’s also been sued for sexual harassment by former employees.
On Monday, representatives from the L.A. branch of the NAACP announced they would no longer honour Sterling with a lifetime achievement award.
Sponsors, such as Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Virgin America, are backing away from advertising at the team’s games, and insurance company State Farm said it “will be taking a pause in our relationship” with the Clippers and will be monitoring the situation closely.
While the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine are imposed immediately, there is no timeline on when the owners will meet to decide on the sale of the team.
Following Silver’s announcement Tuesday, the L.A. Clippers website redirected users to a black screen and the words “We Are One.”
Sterling has yet to make an official comment on the ruling or allegations.
-With files from Heather Loney and The Associated Press.
TMS debates: Did the NBA make the right move by banning Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life?
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