Donald Sterling, an attorney who knows his way around a courtroom, said his franchise is not for sale.
The banished Los Angeles Clippers’ owner made the comments to Fox’s Jim Gray, an indication that a legal tug of war could be in the offing as the NBA digs in for a vote to force the sale of the team Sterling has owned for 33 years.
Within three days, NBA commissioner Adam Silver must provide a written copy of charges and intentions to Sterling. In turn, Sterling has five days to respond to the charges. No response is accepted as admission of guilt.
Should he respond, personally or through legal conduits, the NBA Board of Governors must meet for an evidence hearing. Sterling entire reign in Los Angeles can be considered, not just the recently released audio conversation made public last week.
Sterling, 81, paid $12.5 million for the team and moved it from San Diego to Los Angeles without permission of the NBA. He was fined, but took the NBA to court to get the fine amount reduced.
Most owners view him as an outsider, and Silver boldly stated Tuesday that he has the full support of ownership.
“I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team and will do everything in my power to ensure that that happens,” Silver said
Upon a board vote, the NBA can take control of the team and begin seeking buyers.
Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said Wednesday he anticipates that his fellow NBA owners will vote unanimously — 29-0 — to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.
Ranadive, who emphatically supported Silver’s ruling Tuesday, reiterated his stance Wednesday morning on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike.”
“I would be surprised if this was not a unanimous vote,” Ranadive said during the interview. “The owners are amazing people — they’re color-blind — and I fully expect a unanimous vote.”
Sterling’s legal recourse could be to challenge the NBA constitution and its specific application to his current ordeal.
Silver said he had “no idea” what the unapologetic Clippers owner might do in response but assured he was empowered by owners and the league’s constitution to act.
“Let’s just leave it that we have the authority to act as I’ve recommended,” Silver said.
Former NBA players’ union attorney and prominent antitrust lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said the commissioner’s decision is viewed as a final abribtration decision, which the court could view as an immediate roadblock to a Sterling rebuttal.
“I believe the league has the authority to do this and that circumstances would justify it,” Kessler said Tuesday.