NBA Owners First Tried to Oust Donald Sterling over Recorded Comments in 1982

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2014

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Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has long been a thorn in the NBA's side. Even before his recent racist comments were aired by TMZ, he'd been the subject of lawsuits and accusations that marred his reputation in the eyes of anyone paying attention.

Apparently, efforts to remove him from the NBA aren't entirely new either.

According to the Los Angeles TimesNathan Fenno, a handful of owners moved to have Sterling ousted over three decades ago:

A special committee of six NBA owners unanimously recommended Sterling’s removal in September 1982. Created after Sterling’s aborted attempt to relocate the franchise from San Diego to Los Angeles, the committee grew concerned about late payments by the Clippers to players, hotels, program printers and others...But much of the controversy revolved around an audiotape.

Fenno goes on to elaborate about the tape, explaining that "the special committee focused on comments Sterling made to a luncheon earlier that year insisting the Clippers needed to finish last so they could draft a player like Ralph Sampson."

In other words, Sterling was an advocate of tanking long before the concept entered most of our vocabularies. So, in a sense, he's a pioneer—in all the wrong ways.

Per Fenno, one source said that Sterling was "as good as gone" at the time.

Of course, the earlier controversy pales in comparison to the ire he's rightfully drawn most recently. His comments were condemned in the harshest terms by just about anyone with access to the Internet.

As The Washington Post's Rick Maese noted, "Everyone from President Obama to Snoop Dogg lined up to vilify the statements made by Sterling, 80, a billionaire real estate mogul who has owned the Clippers since 1981."

Just as universally as Sterling was rebuked, the world has rushed to support the league's decision to ban him from the NBA for life and push for his removal as owner. Charles Barkley praised Silver heavily and talked about what his actions meant for the league during a segment on TNT's Inside the NBA.

Now, we await a vote in which owners will determine Sterling's fate. By all accounts, NBA commissioner Adam Silver will get the votes he seeks. Owners around the league have widely supported his stance and risk significant public backlash in the event they dissent from the majority opinion.

Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive expects a unanimous vote to oust Sterling, telling ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike, "I would be surprised if this was not a unanimous vote. The owners are amazing people -- they're color-blind -- and I fully expect a unanimous vote."

From there, the question becomes how will Sterling respond? According to Forbes, Sterling has a net worth of $1.9 billion, so he has the resources to drag out a lengthy court battle with a top-notch legal team.

Ugly as things have been, they could get worse before they get better. 


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