The NBA announced Monday that it has "initiated a charge" to terminate Donald Sterling's ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The league's process allows Sterling to respond to this charge by May 27. The disgraced Clippers owner, who was caught on tape making a series of racist remarks, can also make his case at a hearing conducted by the NBA's Board of Governors on June 3.
A three-quarters vote by the Board of Governors to "sustain" the charge would terminate "all ownership interests in the Clippers," the league said in a statement, freeing up the franchise to be sold to a new ownership group.
The language of the NBA's memo suggests that Donald Sterling's wife, Shelly Sterling, will also be ousted as owner if and when the Board of Governors votes to terminate Donald Sterling's ownership stake. Shelly Sterling has pledged to fight to keep her stake.
Sterling, 80, has owned the Clippers for 33 years, making him the NBA's longest-tenured owner. The NBA's termination charge against him cites a list of Sterling's actions that have "damaged and continue to damage the NBA and its teams" while also listing off a series of negative impacts on the league.
The NBA is taking issue with Sterling for the following reasons:
- Disparaging African-Americans and minorities.
- Directing a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games.
- Criticizing African-Americans for not supporting their communities.
The first two items relate to comments made by Sterling to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, in a private tape that was released by TMZ. The third item relates to comments made during an interview with CNN this month.
The NBA is listing the following impacts of Sterling's comments and behavior:
- Significantly undermining the NBA’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.
- Damaging the NBA’s relationship with its fans.
- Harming NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel.
- Impairing the NBA’s relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders.
Finally, the NBA has accused Sterling of engaging in "other misconduct," including releasing a "false and misleading press statement." Upon the release of the TMZ tape, Sterling issued a statement in which he questioned the legitimacy of the audio and refused to confirm that the voice on the tape was his.
SI.com's Michael McCann laid out, in detail, the full process for ousting Sterling last week.
It is widely assumed that NBA commissioner Adam Silver has the necessary support to secure the super-majority vote to terminate Sterling's ownership. Silver has already imposed a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine on Sterling for his comments and all 30 teams, including the Clippers, expressed support for Silver following that punishment.
Attorney Pierce O'Donnell issued a statement on behalf of Shelly Sterling on Monday afternoon.
"We have just received the voluminous charges and are beginning the process of carefully reviewing them," O'Donnell said. "Based on our initial assessment, we continue to believe there is no lawful basis for stripping Shelly Sterling of her 50 percent ownership interest in the Clippers. She is the innocent estranged spouse. We also continue to hope that we can resolve this dispute with the NBA for the good of all constituencies.”