Would LeBron James lead a boycott next season if Donald Sterling isn't ousted? (D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has pledged to pursue the ouster of disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was caught on tape last month making a series of racist remarks and then attacked Lakers legend Magic Johnson in a nationally televised interview this week. However, the timing of Sterling's departure remains unclear, and Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling's wife, has vowed to "fight" to keep her ownership stake in the team.
One way or another, the National Basketball Players Association has made it clear they want both Sterlings removed by the start of the 2014-15 season, and one of the players union's executives is threatening a boycott, led by four-time MVP LeBron James, if that deadline isn't met.
“If it’s not handled by… the start of next season, I don’t see how we’re playing basketball,” NBPA vice president Roger Mason Jr. said in an interview with Showtime's Jim Rome. “We have player reps, we’ve got executive committee members… Leaders of the teams, they’re all saying the same thing, ‘If [Sterling] is still in place, we ain’t playing’. ... I was just in the locker room three or four days ago. LeBron and I talked about it. He ain’t playing if Sterling is still an owner.”
Mason clarified that the ultimatum applies equally to Shelly Sterling, too.
“No Sterling deserves to be an owner of that franchise any longer,” Mason continued. “And I’ve gone down the line from LeBron to the other guys in the league that I’ve talked to and they all feel the same way. There’s no place for that family in the NBA.”
James, who scored 49 points in a Game 4 victory over the Nets in the Eastern conference semifinals on Monday, took a public stand against both Sterlings earlier this week.
"As players, we want what's right and we don't feel like no one in his family should be able to own the team," he said, according to the Associated Press. "At the end of the day, this is going to be a long litigation when it comes to that. This guy who's owned the team since the '80s is not going to just give the team up in a day. So we understand it's going to be long, but we want what's right."
Donald Sterling, who has been banned for life by Silver, told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday that he was hoping the NBA and his fellow owners would give him another chance, but he seemed to suggest that he didn't see the value in a protracted legal battle over the Clippers.
“People want me to hire a wall of lawyers and [the NBA] to have to hire a wall of lawyers and go to war,” Sterling said. “I don’t think that’s the answer. I think the answer is, the league is a good league, all honest people. And I think that whatever they decide that has to be done, I think I should work with them and do it.
"I don't want to fight with my partners, you know? We all do what we have to do in life. I love [the owners] and I respect them. And whatever their decision is with regard to the disposition of my terrible words, then I have to do it, I think."
Shelly Sterling, though, is prepared to dig in.
“I will fight that decision,” she told ABC News. “To be honest with you, I’m wondering if a wife of one of the owners, and there’s 30 owners, did something like that, said those racial slurs, would they oust the husband? Or would they leave the husband in?
“I was shocked by what [Donald Sterling] said. And — well, I guess whatever [the NBA's] decision is — we have to live with it. But I don’t know why I should be punished for what his actions were.”
The NBA has moved quickly to place distance between Sterling and the Clippers. In addition to Sterling's lifetime ban, Silver has placed Clippers president Andy Roeser on leave and installed Dick Parsons as the organization's new CEO. The NBA's 10-member advisory/finance committee met again this week as it prepares for a vote that could oust Sterling.
“The advisory/finance committee met again this afternoon via conference call," a league spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday. "The Committee discussed the recent media appearances by Donald Sterling and Shelly Sterling, received updates on the hiring of Dick Parsons as the Los Angeles Clippers interim CEO and on his meeting yesterday with Clippers employees, and reviewed the status of the charge for termination of the Clippers’ ownership. The Committee will reconvene next week.”
Three-quarters of the league's owners must vote to force out Sterling.
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