NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has banned Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, for life after a recording surfaced of the 80-year-old making racist comments. Sterling cannot attend games or practices or take part in business or player personnel decisions. The commissioner said he was moving to force a sale of the Clippers. But in the meantime, who’s running the team--which has a crucial playoff game tonight?
Silver said the penalty applied solely to Donald Sterling and has no effect on his family members including his estranged wife, Rochelle.
But for now, the power to make decisions for the team lies with LA Clippers President Andy Roeser, according to Gary Roberts, a sports law expert from Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law. “If Sterling would like to replace Roeser, that would require negotiation with the league.”
It’s in the Clippers’ best interest to be sold quickly, Roberts says. The pressure from sponsors, fans and players is unlikely to disappear as long as Sterling remains the owner, even in absentia. That means the team’s value is likely to diminish if Sterling fights to hold onto it.
“It would be insane for him to want to retain ownership,” Roberts said referring to Sterling.
Sources told Yahoo Sports that Magic Johnson and his billionaire backers, the Guggenheim Partners, were interested in purchasing the LA Clippers. Johnson has denied any interest in buying the team. Another name in the rumor mill is hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, who tried to buy the Sacramento Kings a year ago with the hope of moving them to Seattle. Media mogul David Geffen has also expressed interest in buying the team.
Another possibility could be keeping the LA Clippers in the Sterling family. Roberts points to an instance in the NFL where San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who was involved in a corruption case, transferred ownership of the team to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, in 2001. “The NFL was fine with that,” Roberts said.
Since the recording was published, corporate sponsors have pulled out and a slew of politicians and athletes have voiced their outrage about Sterling’s comments made in the tape, where he objected to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, bringing black friends to games and posting photos on her Instagram account.
Silvers said he was “hopeful that there will be no long-term damage to the league and to the Clippers’ organization.”
“I would say those marketing partners of the Clippers and partners of the entire NBA should judge us by our response to this incident … and I would be hopeful that they would return into their business relationships with the Clippers,” he said.