Donald Sterling decision: Nuclear option is possible; don’t count out Magic Johnson


The Miami Heat’s Big Three sent a message to the NBA, too. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

Early Tuesday afternoon, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will announce just what the league’s solution is for the Donald Sterling Problem.

It’s a remedy that includes everything from a PR bandage to a nuclear option. And the latter isn’t unthinkable. League officials told Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski that a provision in the NBA’s bylaws would allow Silver to summon a vote of league owners to strip Sterling of his ownership and that the NBA would run the Clippers until they are sold. Of course, Silver could choose to suspend Sterling for racist comments he allegedly made or he could fine him and require him to undergo counseling.

Whatever  Silver determines about Sterling as the Clippers’ owner, count on the name of Magic Johnson to figure prominently today.

He’s been at the heart of the matter since the controversy erupted Saturday, when an audio recording in which a man alleged to be Sterling tells his girlfriend not to bring blacks to games and asks her to delete an Instagram photo of her with the Lakers’ Hall of Famer. He quickly reacted, saying he’d never go to another Clippers game and that Sterling “shouldn’t own a team anymore.” Not long after that, Johnson was mentioned as the cure-all for Sterlingitis in the NBA. A part owner of the Dodgers along with Guggenheim Partners, Johnson was “absolutely interested.” He denied that Monday.

His tweet, though, put nothing to rest.

Yahoo’s Wojarowski reported that “Johnson and potential investors spent part of Monday working to understand the avenues to which they could eventually make a deal to become Clippers owners, sources told Yahoo Sports. If the franchise becomes available, Johnson wants to be positioned to make a deal.”

Nor did quotes from owners, beginning with Michael Jordan on Sunday, offer much hope to Sterling. The Charlotte Bobcats owner said Sunday that he was “obviously disgusted” as a former player and “absolutely outraged” in his new position. The sentiment is clear and other owners echoed Jordan.

If the NBA’s investigation determines that Sterling’s voice is on the recording, he “should be given the maximum penalty for his comments,” Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson told Atlanta radio station 92.9/The Game. “I strongly believe that the league has to have a zero-tolerance policy against racism and discrimination in any form and I have faith that commissioner Adam Silver will act in what’s the best interest of the league. I have expressed these views to Adam and my fellow owners.”

Owners comments indicate a solidarity behind whatever Silver decides to do, no matter how forcefully they’re speaking.

“The kind of statements attributed to Clippers owner Donald Sterling, if true, are abhorrent, and not acceptable for the owner of an NBA franchise or anyone in professional sports,” Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen said in a news release. “We … reject any and all such sentiments, and believe NBA leadership should take swift and impactful action in this case.”

Donald Sterling’s wife, Shelly, distanced herself from her husband, saying they were estranged and that she is not a racist, in perhaps a bid to take control and keep the team in the family, but there seems to be little sentiment for that, with pressure within the league from owners to players. On Monday, Miami Heat players echoed the Clippers’ protest Sunday with a show of solidarity. Sponsors are already abandoning the team and within the Clippers, there’s a sense that anything other than the removal of Sterling would result in the departure of Coach Doc Rivers and, eventually, the star-studded lineup that Sterling assembled.

What will Silver, in his first significant act less than two months into his tenure, do?

More on Donald Sterling and the Clippers:

Miami Heat players protest in show of solidarity

Mark Jackson: Fans should protest Game 5

Donald Trump says Sterling’s girlfriend set him up

Sterling costs Clippers a bevy of sponsors

Is Marge Schott’s ouster from baseball Sterling’s future?

Magic Johnson is reportedly interested in buying Clippers

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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