It's been less than a month since audio leaked of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist comments to ex-girlfriend V. Stiviano, and the NBA has acted swiftly. On Monday afternoon, the league formally began the process to potentially oust Sterling as owner of the team.
The NBA released an official statement about its plans moving forward in the proceedings, beginning with initiating a formal charge, via NBA.com:
The NBA initiated a charge Monday seeking to terminate the ownership of Donald Sterling in the Los Angeles Clippers. If the NBA Board of Governors sustains the charge by a 3/4 vote, all ownership interests in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold to new owners.
The NBA Constitution provides Mr. Sterling with the opportunity to respond to the charge by May 27, as well as the right to appear and make a presentation at a special meeting of the Board of Governors. This hearing, which is planned for June 3, will be presided over by NBA Board of Governors Chairman Glen Taylor, the controlling Governor of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The full release goes on to describe how Sterling "engaged in conduct that has damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its teams." It goes into further detail to explain specifically how Sterling's actions have done so.
Much of this information was already known after NBA commissioner Adam Silver slapped Sterling with a lifetime ban last month. But after those initial threats to terminate Sterling's Clippers ownership, nothing had yet come of the statement made by Silver.
The NBA later officially released the charges against Sterling, via Matt Moore of CBS Sports:
Needless to say, the wheels are now in motion.
This prompted a quick response from Shelly Sterling, Donald's estranged wife, via Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
Howard Beck of Bleacher Report points out some of the finer points of the league's statement:
As Beck notes, Sterling has a chance to respond to the allegations. But with the hearing already scheduled, will anything truly change the outcome?
Apparently Sterling isn't happy with the date given for the response. Sterling's attorney Maxwell Blecher plans to request an extension, as Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated writes:
SI.com has learned that attorney Maxwell Blecher, on behalf of Clippers owner Donald Sterling, demanded tonight the NBA give his client three months to respond to the NBA's charge from early in the day. The NBA, sources say, will reject the demand. The league has given Sterling until May 27 to respond to the charge, which asserts that Sterling engaged "in conduct that has damaged and continues to damage the NBA." The May 27th deadline is consistent with the NBA constitution and procedures assented to by Sterling. The NBA, sources say, regard Blecher's request for a three-month delay as unreasonable. May 27th is a month after Sterling's infamous recording became public. The league also asserts it is crucial that there be clear title on the Clippers ownership prior to the start of the 2014-15 season.
McCann goes on to explain the details of the arguments Blecher plans to raise during the response. As Sterling has attempted to do repeatedly, the first step will be to convince owners that Sterling was confused and didn't know he was being taped.
As for the next two points, Sterling will most likely look to attack the NBA specifically by stating that they are overstating the charges against him and not giving him due process. Another potential wrench thrown into the equation is that Shelly Sterling could file for divorce, which might allow her to keep her stake.
Mike Greenberg of ESPN also notes his thoughts on the upcoming voting process by the owners:
Despite his awful attempts at damage control, including his exclusive interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Sterling has not changed his public persona. Sacramento Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive has even come out saying he believes the vote to oust Sterling will be unanimous, via Nina Mandell of USA Today.
As for the actual vote itself, we are still weeks away from hearing any of the results. With the NBA playoffs still taking place, it appears the league intends not to interfere with the postseason, as a potential Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals would take place on June 2.
According to NBA.com, the NBA Finals will not begin until June 5.
What still looms is whether or not the vote will in fact be unanimous. If not, will the votes be released to the public? If those votes are released, will there be a public outcry against those owners?
All of that will be found out on June 3 when the owners officially put their decision to a vote.
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