Apr 29 2014, 4:18pm CDT | by Forbes
Those watching the proceedings leading up to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s press conference on Tuesday, pretty much knew that Clippers owner Donald Sterling was in deep trouble. The union for the players, owners, even Clippers coach Doc Rivers and the roster of his team in the playoffs had protested in one form or another of Sterling.
Silver laid down the hammer as hard has he had within his immediate power.
“Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA,” said Silver at the press conference in New York. “Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers facility, and he may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.”
Silver wasn’t finished, adding financial penalties. “I am also fining Mr. Sterling $2.5 million, the maximum amount allowed under the NBA constitution. These funds will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and its Players Association.”
That was now. But what couldn’t be done as hastily (or certainly as easily) was completely removing Sterling from ownership. Still, Silver addressed what could occur during Sterling’s suspension by saying, “As for Mr. Sterling’s ownership interest in the Clippers, I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team and will do everything in my power to ensure that that happens.”
When asked if Sterling would acquiesce to any forced sale, Silver responded, “I have no idea.”
To that end, Sterling may not go willingly.
Just prior to Sliver formally announcing the suspension and fine, Jim Gray reported for FOX News that Sterling, at least for the moment, has no intentions of letting go of the Clippers saying, the team is “not for sale.”
“He really didn’t want to comment on the record,” Gray said. “However, the team is not for sale and he will not be selling the team.”
But if Sterling doesn’t wish to go willingly, that doesn’t mean that legal battle or not, he doesn’t go.
More than one source is indicating that not only would the NBA Board of Governors support an ouster, but a majority of the owners. In fact, it’s possible that the vote could be 29 in favor, with the lone abstention being from the Clippers
So, as we noted here on Forbes yesterday, there could be ways in which Sterling could exit. For now, it seems the need to force him out is in order. But, over time, as the heated passions of the moment begin to somewhat dissipate, Sterling may change his mind. And maybe the owners, in private, decide to shift was well.
That doesn’t seem like a possibility, given the heated public comments by owners, and the fact that the players and union for them aren’t likely to be satisfied until the public commitments by Silver today run their course.
Sterling may wish to retain the Clippers, but it would take a protracted court case for that to occur. The NBA seems ready to go down that road, if need be.
Follow Maury Brown on Twitter @BizballMaury
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