On April 29th the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave a startling press conference in New York. There he banned billionaire Donald Sterling for life from having anything to do with the National Basketball League, or the team he and his wife co-own 50% each, the LA Clippers. In addition he fined Sterling US$2.5 million. Sterling’s troubles all rose from some very incautious racist remarks he had made on his cell phone, to a girl friend of his V. Stiviano, which were leaked and ultimately went viral over the internet.
Adam Silver also said he would canvass all the other team owners of the League to build the 75% majority support needed in order to force a sale of the team, something which is permitted under the League’s by-laws in extreme circumstances.
Since then we have been retreated to a uniquely American ritual of both public defiance, and contrition, by Sterling conducted over the waves of public television. Richard Parsons, former Chairman and CEO of Time Warner Inc. was rapidly parachuted in as a heavy weight new CEO for the LA Clippers. Names of potential bidders to buy the team, from David Geffen to Oprah Winfrey, have also been bandied around.
The Clippers are certainly a valuable franchise. Having originally bought it for just US12.5 million way back in 1981, Sterling has built it up into a money spinner and it could sell with bids commencing already north of US$700 million, according to some reports.
One team owner, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, has already chipped in his own ten cents about the Sterling situation and admitted to having prejudices of his own at a conference in Nashville last week.
According to Sporting News, Cuban said that he has already decided which way he will vote when the NBA Board of Governors meets June 3, quite possibly to decide Sterling’s fate.
“There are no laws against stupid, ” Cuban said of Sterling’s racist comments.
Cuban added there would be “a lot at stake for the NBA as a business” with this situation.
While he didn’t actually indicate how he will vote if there should be a vote on a forced sale, Cuban spoke openly about racial prejudice and said he might have to be a hypocrite regarding Sterling. “The thing that scares me about this whole thing is I don’t want to be a hypocrite, ” Cuban said. “And I think I might have to be.”
Cuban then also admitted to being “bigoted in a lot of different ways, ” saying that “none of us have completely pure thoughts.” what is important is how you deal with it he said, adding “When I run into bigotry in organizations I control, I try to find solutions. I’ll work with people, I’ll send them to training, I’ll send them to sensitivity training, ”
The idea of an involuntary forced sale though may now be pre-empted by Sterling himself, with new reports indicating he has surrendered his stake in the Los Angeles Clippers to his wife, with a mandate for her to move forward and voluntarily sell the team.
Obviously this could obtain a significantly better price, get everyone off the hook and avoid all kinds of complicated lawsuits, compared to a forced sale process. It is also an outcome the other team owners would probably vastly prefer as well, rather than having to vote on ejecting one of their own.
Not to be out manoeuvred however The NBA kept the pressure up Friday too, continuing its formal process for a forced sale and issuing a statement saying, “We continue to follow the process set forth in the NBA Constitution regarding termination of the current ownership interests in the Los Angeles Clippers and are proceeding toward a hearing on this matter on June 3.”