Left uncertain, however, is whether the other owners will take
that step. Some experts said Sterling's peers might be leery of
action they felt could jeopardize their own property rights in the
future. Also unclear is whether Sterling will fight the ban in the
Sterling was forced out on Tuesday after two websites released audio
recordings over the weekend of a voice said to be his, criticizing a
woman friend for "associating with black people." In it, he asks her
not to invite former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin "Magic" Johnson
to Clippers games.
News of the recordings drew outrage from players, fans, politicians
and commercial sponsors, several of whom said they were cutting ties
with the team, even after the NBA moved to expel Sterling.
The scandal quickly grew into a national discussion of race
relations transcending basketball. On Tuesday, it led National
Basketball Commissioner Adam Silver to prohibit Sterling from any
ties with the Clippers organization or the league as a whole and bar
him from ever again attending NBA games or practices.
Sterling, the longest-tenured of the NBA's 30 owners, also is
excluded from any team business or player personnel decisions and
has been stripped of his seat on the league's board of governors,
Silver told a news conference in New York City.
Moreover, the league fined Sterling $2.5 million, its maximum
monetary penalty, and the commissioner called on the league's
governing board of fellow owners to act immediately to force
Sterling to sell the club he bought 33 years ago.
Such a move, requiring a vote by three-fourths of Sterling's peers,
would mark the strongest such rebuke of an NBA owner in league
history and is almost unheard of in U.S. pro sports.
Asked whether Sterling, 80, could end up an absentee owner, Silver
told reporters, "I fully expect to get the support I need from the
other NBA owners to remove him."
"JUDGE AND EXECUTIONER"
Sterling could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, and it was not
immediately clear whether he would seek to challenge the ban in
But lawyers with expertise in sports law gave him little chance of
successfully suing the NBA, citing league governance rules that all
owners must accept.
"Having agreed to the NBA constitution and bylaws, I think courts
will generally make him adhere to the agreement that he freely
entered into," said Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer who serves as outside
council to the NBA Players Association.
Nathaniel Grow, a University of Georgia professor of sports law,
agreed, saying the NBA commissioner is "almost like a judge and
executioner, and whatever he says goes."
If Sterling's peers vote him out, he could sue them under antitrust
laws, but that would be an uphill climb, too, said Boston University
sports law professor Michael Harper.
[to top of second column]
The prospect of forcing Sterling to sell his team set off
speculation about potential buyers.
Billionaire media executive David Geffen is interested in acquiring
the Clippers, a person who had been informed of his thinking told
Reuters after Tuesday's announcement, though a previous expression
of interest never produced an offer.
"Magic" Johnson, a part owner
of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team who once had a stake in the
Lakers and has built a media empire catering to African-Americans,
has been mentioned as a possible suitor for the Clippers.
But as of Monday, a day before the NBA announcement, Johnson was
tweeting to fans: "I want to put a stop to a rumor. I am not trying
to buy the Clippers, they already have an owner."
One of boxing's biggest names, five-division world champion Floyd
Mayweather Jr., also expressed interest in comments to reporters in
Las Vegas ahead of a May 3 bout.
Asked whether Sterling's wife might exercise an ownership or
managerial stake in the team even if Sterling himself were removed,
Silver seemed to leave the question open.
"There have been no decisions about other members of the Sterling
family," he said. "This ruling applies specifically to Donald
Sterling and Donald Sterling's conduct only."
The woman heard on the recordings at the heart of the scandal is
said to be a 31-year-old Los Angeles model who goes by the name V.
Stiviano. She was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed last month
by Sterling's wife, Rochelle, seeking to recoup community spousal
assets the plaintiff claims her husband gave Stiviano without her
The drama over Sterling's remarks unfolded as the Clippers, long the
doormat team of the NBA and overshadowed by the Los Angeles Lakers,
were capping their strongest season ever in a first-round playoff
series against the Golden State Warriors of Oakland, California.
Apparently energized by Tuesday's NBA decision two days after a
stinging defeat in Oakland that tied the best-of-seven series at
2-2, the Clippers on Tuesday night scored a decisive 113-103 victory
over the Warriors on their home court.
(Additional reporting by Julien Linden, Curtis Skinner and Chris
Francescani in New York; David Ingram in Washington; and Dana
Feldman, Lisa Richwine, Alex Dobuzinskis, Ron Grover, Mark
Lamport-Stokes and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; writing by Steve
Gorman; editing by Larry King)
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