The first step in the beginning of the end of Donald Sterling’s run as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers begins today, with a conference call among members of the NBA owners’ advisory/finance committee.
Two days after Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life over racist comments, the call will activate another part of Silver’s punishment: getting owners to force Sterling to sell the team he bought in 1981. The committee members, all with ownership stakes, are: Minnesota’s Glen Taylor (chairman), Micky Arison of the Miami Heat, Jeanie Buss of the Los Angeles Lakers, Clay Bennett of the Oklahoma City Thunder, James Dolan of the New York Knicks, Wyc Grousbeck of the Boston Celtics, Peter Holt of the San Antonio Spurs, Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Suns, Herb Simon of the Indiana Pacers and Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Raptors.
That group will discuss the next steps in the process. “I expect that they’ll have a sub-committee that examines this issue and takes it to the entire board,” Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive told ESPN’s “Mike and Mike Show.” “The commissioner has shown that he can act quickly, so I expect him to continue acting quickly.”
The first step would be for Sterling to be charged in writing. The commissioner has three business days to provide a written statement to Sterling once a member of the association or the commissioner himself officially files the charges, according to the NBA’s Constitution and By-Laws.
The next step would be for Sterling to respond within five days after receiving the charges in writing. After that, the commissioner would have 10 days to convene a meeting of the Board of Governors, which consists of all NBA owners. The NBA has not made clear whether or how the Clippers would be represented. All parties would present evidence and the governors would then vote. If Sterling does not respond or attend the meeting, his absence “shall be deemed an admission … of the total validity of the charges as presented,” as stated in Article 14(c).
Sterling’s ouster would require the votes of three-fourths of the governors (22) under Article 14(g). Ranadive expects a 29-0 vote. “I would be surprised if this was not a unanimous vote,” Ranadive told ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” show. “The owners are amazing people — they’re color-blind — and I fully expect a unanimous vote.”
Silver has similar expectations. “I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him,” he said Tuesday.
Although votes are not public, owners and Silver might make an exception here. Especially if Sterling is determined to slug it out. Although Article 15 provides alternatives to termination, those seem inapplicable since Sterling has been banned for life by Silver.
More likely, the board will turn to Article14A on “The Consequences of Termination” to force Sterling to sell. That would take the situation to Article 5, and most likely, Article 5(g). This allows Silver to appoint a committee to transfer ownership without Sterling’s involvement.
At that point, Sterling could take the proceeds from the sale of the team — which will be a considerable return on his $12.5 million investment — and go away quietly. Or he could head for a courthouse, which would likely be futile because Paragraph 24(m) of the constitution provides that a commissioner’s decision shall be “final, binding, and conclusive” and shall be as final as an award of arbitration.