Skip to main content

NBA vs. Clippers owner Sterling: Who wants to buy out a billionaire?

By Matt Smith, CNN
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Wed April 30, 2014

(CNN) -- After slapping Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban from pro basketball for racist remarks that were leaked online, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he would do "everything in my power" to force Sterling to sell the franchise. Here's a primer on what may happen next.

Sponsors withdrawal can force LAC sale
Silver outraged over Sterling's remarks
Shaq on Sterling's punishment
Magic Johnson reacts to Sterling's ban
Who is V. Stiviano?

What's the process?

Three-quarters of the owners of the 30 NBA teams would have to agree to force an owner to sell, Silver said. He did not lay out a detailed timetable for action but said the league would start using its advisory finance committee to bring the issue before the owners "immediately."

Do they have the votes?

As of Tuesday evening, more than 20 of the NBA's 30 teams had issued statements of support for Silver, but whether that would translate into a vote to push out a fellow owner wasn't certain. Silver said he hadn't polled the owners but added, "I fully expect to get the support I need."

Wait a minute, can they do that?

They can. But Gabe Feldman, the director of the Sports Law Center at Tulane University, said the drastic move usually involves "extreme" circumstances, such as an owner's financial collapse "or maybe gambling or fixing games." He questioned whether owners would vote to remove one of their own "based on something they don't like," possibly creating a precedent that might be used against them one day.

The owners may agree that Sterling's comments were awful, Feldman told CNN. "The question is, do racially insensitive and abhorrent remarks made privately rise to the circumstances necessary for this vote to happen?"

Is there some other way?

Feldman said the other NBA owners might be able to persuade Sterling to sell without a vote, noting that the Clippers owner stands to make a whopping profit on a team he purchased three decades ago.

"He may get a lot of money from the sale, but I think it will allow the NBA to shift their force back onto the product on the court," Feldman said.

Does Sterling have any recourse if owners vote him out?

Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson announced he will sell the team in light of an offensive email he sent. Levenson is not the first sports team owner to face the consequences of his actions: Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson announced he will sell the team in light of an offensive email he sent. Levenson is not the first sports team owner to face the consequences of his actions:
Team owners behaving badly
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
Team owners behaving badly Team owners behaving badly

He could go to court, and Feldman predicted the issue would end up there. But CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the odds of Sterling winning a case "seem basically zero."

"This is not the government enforcing a penalty. This is not something where you have the Constitution involved. This is simply a contract," Toobin said. "There is a contract between all the owners and the NBA, and the powers of the commissioner and the power of the other owners are laid out there."

Could he somehow keep a hand on the team?

The ban imposed Tuesday prevents Sterling from playing any role in the management of the Clippers. He can't go to games, to practices, to team offices or facilities or to any NBA functions. But asked whether his wife, Rochelle, or other members of his family could remain, Silver said no decisions had been made.

"This ruling applies specifically to Donald Sterling, and Donald Sterling's conduct only," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Racism in sports
updated 8:32 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
The racially charged email that led to Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson giving up his team was discovered after another member of the Hawks leadership made a racial comment.
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson is on his way out after a racially charged email surfaced in which he implied white fans were more important than black ones.
updated 5:31 AM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
Brazil's Dani Alves arrived at Barcelona from Sevilla in 2008 and he has gone on to make over 180 appearances for the club.
Kevin-Prince Boateng walked off during an AC Milan soccer match in Italy, but Dani Alves turned to humor in dealing with racist abuse during a Spanish league game.
BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 01: Neymar of Barcelona celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on April 1, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Dani Alves' response to a fan throwing a banana at him during Barcelona's trip to Villarreal on Sunday drew huge praise from the football world.
updated 6:36 PM EDT, Mon April 28, 2014
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is a billionaire real estate mogul who's owned the team for more than three decades.
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Thu May 15, 2014
Donald Sterling wants a second chance.
updated 11:19 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Mark Cuban is known for making pointed statements. Usually they are directed at the NBA brass or referees. Or contestants on the TV show "Shark Tank."
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Mon March 24, 2014
West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka looks on during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, central England, on January 1, 2014.
England prides itself on being the home of football, but is the nation dysfunctional in dealing with racist abuse?
updated 9:49 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
"Move on, Jews! Your home is at Auschwitz! Send you to the gas (chamber)!"
updated 7:24 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
French soccer star Nicolas Anelka has decided to quit English Premier League club West Bromwich Albion following his punishment for making a controversial "quenelle" gesture.
updated 4:11 PM EDT, Sat October 12, 2013
Team owners strongly dispute any racism behind the mascot and won't change it, saying the Redskins name honors "where we came from, who we are."
updated 4:14 PM EDT, Thu September 12, 2013
Tottenham Hotspur fans have seen the term
English football fans have been warned they face criminal prosecution if they continue to chant a word which has been deemed anti-Semitic.
updated 2:09 PM EDT, Fri May 31, 2013
FIFA approved tougher penalties for racist behavior, including possible relegation, in a move that one anti-racism organization said will bring soccer "in line" with other sports.
ADVERTISEMENT