NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Bans Clippers Owner Donald Sterling From League For Life

Apr 29 2014, 1:50pm CDT | by

Just a few months after taking office, Adam Silver has made his first major decision as NBA commissioner by banning embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life.

The unprecedented decision comes on the heels of national outrage over racist comments made by Sterling to girlfriend V. Stivano. Silver reported that the NBA conducted a detailed investigation which concluded that it was in fact Sterling’s voice on recordings made by Stivano, and that the comments made were “extremely offensive and outrageous”.

The league office had several options they could have pursued in the punishment of Sterling. Under the provisions of the NBA  bylaws, Silver had the power to issue both a lifetime suspension and a substantial fine on any franchise owner. Specifically, Silver invoked  Paragraph 24(l) of the NBA constitution, which covers situations not elsewhere addressed by a specific rule, and issued a $2.5 million fine and indefinite suspension (in this case ban) from the league.

Silver also said that he would force the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise to remove Sterling from the NBA’s ownership ranks. Silver has the power to do this under Paragraph 13 of the constitution, which allows the leagues ownership to terminate another owner’s franchise rights with a three-fourths vote of the NBA Board of Governors. In the case at hand, the owners will most likely use the provision that allows for termination when an owner “fails to fulfill a contractual obligation in such a way as to affect the [league] or its members adversely.”

Jason Belzer is Founder of GAME, Inc.  and a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Sports Law at Rutgers University. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBelzer.

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