The National Basketball Association’s strategy for forcing the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers by Donald Sterling hinges on a document the owner signed when he bought the team in 1981 that lays out reasons ownership could be terminated, a source familiar with the situation said Wednesday.
Sterling has been banned for life from the team’s day-to-day operations and facilities and was fined $2.5 million last week for racist comments that were recorded and posted online late last month.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has asked the other 29 NBA owners to force Sterling, the longest-tenured owner in the league, to sell the Clippers.
The matter is with the Advisory/Finance Committee, which met Wednesday on a conference call. Members discussed the “termination of Mr. Sterling’s ownership of the team,” the NBA said in a news release. The committee will meet again next week, the statement said.
If the case proceeds to a full vote, 75% of the owners would have to approve the forced sale.
The source told CNN that on several occasions since 1981 Sterling has signed other agreements with the NBA — some within the past decade — that contained moral clauses.
Sterling’s comments, the source explained, puts the 80-year-old owner in violation of Article 13(d) of the NBA constitution, which states that an owner can lose the team if he fails or refuses to “fulfill its contractual obligations to the Association, its Members, Players, or any other third party in such a way as to affect the Association or its Members adversly.”
It is unclear what percentage of the team Sterling owns. A family trust owns the Clippers, and his wife, Shelly Sterling, has indicated that she is a co-owner and wants to keep the team.
Donald Sterling, a lawyer and billionaire real-estate investor, has not spoken publicly since the celebrity gossip website TMZ posted a 10-minute audio recording in which he chastises a woman for posting pictures on Instagram in which she poses with African-Americans, including basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
On Tuesday, one of Sterling’s longtime friends, former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, said the remarks were not surprising. But he had no admiration for the woman who recorded them, V. Stiviano.
“I’ve been a friend of that guy’s for 30 years,” Lasorda said while getting an honorary degree from Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Florida. “It doesn’t surprise me that he said those things. And he shouldn’t have said it. He just hurt himself by talking too much and doing things he shouldn’t be doing.”
As for Stiviano?
“And I don’t wish that girl any bad luck,” he said, “but I hope she gets hit with a car.”
Stiviano, through attorney Mac E. Nehoray, has denied leaking the recordings, another of which was posted by the sports website Deadspin.
The Clippers play the host Oklahoma City Thunder in the second game of their playoff series Wednesday night. The Clippers lead the best-of-seven matchup 1-0.