The decision, reached during a telephone conference call of the
NBA Board of Governors' advisory-finance committee, seemed to
indicate a strong base of support among Sterling's fellow owners for
his removal, as urged by league Commissioner Adam Silver.
Silver on Tuesday declared Sterling banned from the NBA for life,
fined him $2.5 million — the league maximum — and called on the 29
other club owners who make up the governing board to exercise their
authority to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.
The unprecedented move would require a three-fourths majority vote
under the league's constitution and bylaws. If approved, the board
could then go further still and vote to seize ownership of the team
for the NBA itself to sell, cutting Sterling out of the
The decision came hours before sports network ESPN and other media
reported Sterling has been battling prostate cancer. Reuters could
not independently confirm the reports.
Silver and at least two of the owners, including the interim
chairman of the board, Glen Taylor of the Minnesota Timberwolves,
have expressed confidence they could muster the votes necessary to
force a sale.
The teams represented in Thursday's initial strategy session were
Minnesota Timberwolves, the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder,
the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics, the
San Antonio Spurs, and Phoenix Suns, the Indiana Pacers and the
In a brief statement, the NBA said the panel discussed terminating
Sterling's ownership and "unanimously agreed to move forward as
expeditiously as possible." It said the panel would reconvene next
The committee's decision was in line with an outpouring of support
expressed by the owners as a whole for Silver following Tuesday's
announcement of a ban.
But experts have suggested that some of Sterling's fellow owners
might be hesitant to support action they felt could set a precedent
weakening their own future property rights.
COLLISION COURSE SEEN
Sterling, who bought the Clippers in 1981 for $13 million when the
team was based in San Diego, has not indicated whether he would
relinquish ownership without putting up a fight.
Experts have estimated that the franchise, which moved to Los
Angeles in 1984, could now be worth as much as $1 billion, posing an
enormous potential capital gains tax liability on Sterling if he
were to sell the team.
A number of legal scholars and sports business analysts have said
they expect Sterling and the NBA to be on a collision course that
will be fought out in court.
"The guy has a reputation for being highly litigious. I just can't
possibly imagine him rolling over and handing the team over and not
fighting back," said Adam Schlatner, a sports business attorney and
[to top of second column]
Schlatner, who handles legal matters for the National Hockey
League's New York Islanders' owner Charles Wang and has had dealings
with clients involving the NBA, said the league might consider
allowing Sterling to sell the team himself by a prescribed deadline.
But he predicted that, one way or another, Sterling would end up
severed from the Clippers and would realize that "the franchise
would not be economically viable if he continues to own it."
The scandal sparked outrage from fans and players, and numerous
commercial sponsors pulled their support from the team before and
after the NBA moved to expel Sterling.
Sterling was banned from any further ties with his team or
professional basketball, and stripped of his seat on the NBA
governing board, days after two websites released audio recordings
in which a voice said to be Sterling's is heard criticizing a female
friend for "associating with black people."
Silver said Tuesday that Sterling has acknowledged to the NBA that
the recording was authentic but did not apologize.
The sale of the Clippers could take weeks. According to NBA bylaws,
Silver must present Sterling a written copy of any allegations
justifying a forced sale within three days, and Sterling would have
five days to answer.
A special hearing of the Board of Governors, consisting of all the
owners, would then be held on a date no more than 10 days after
The prospect of Sterling's ouster led several luminaries of sports
and show business to signal interest in buying the team. Among them
were talk show host turned media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Hollywood
executive David Geffen, computer technology titan Larry Ellison,
former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin "Magic" Johnson and boxing
promoter Oscar De La Hoya.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; writing and additional
reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Eric M. Johnson in
Seattle; editing by Gunna Dickson, Lisa Shumaker and Catherine
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.