What Can the NBA Do About Sterling?
The Players Association is calling for the greatest penalties against Donald Sterling for the audiotape of his racist remarks released by TMZ last week. What the players are really gunning for is the NBA to force Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. The president of the NPBA is Clippers guard, Chris Paul, and since he is not able to make a public statement because of the complicated situation of the subject in question being his team’s owner, in the middle of playoffs, he passed those duties off to Kevin Johnson. Paul, Johnson and other team reps met to establish the Players League stance on the recently revealed comments from Donald Sterling. Johnson then said in a press release that the players, “want to know within the bylaws and the constitution, what are the maximum sanctions that are available for the commissioner to mete out?” The reason there is so much confusion over whether the NBA can force Sterling to sell the team is that the NBA’s constitutional bylaws are confidential and the NBA has not revealed what they are able to or prepared to do in this situation.
Although some believe that the NBA has the power to boot him out, sports law expert Michael McCann says that constitution wasn’t built for situations like this. In this case, removing Sterling has more to do with public embarrassment than and the bylaws “cover very limited circumstances and these circumstances concern team finances- namely, when an owner can’t pay his bills.” However, there may not need to be a specific bylaw to help get Sterling out of there. If there was a general agreement between most of the owners the league could use “broad powers” that are referenced in the constitution to put pressure on Sterling. They could also make such a move informally, which has been done before, namely Ted Stepien in 1983. However, this situation is a little different that than because Stepien had owned the Cavaliers for three seasons, while Sterling is the longest- tenured owner in the NBA.
This is a big moment for the league. They had all known about Donald Sterling’s racism for many years but chose to do nothing about it. Now that it is in the public spotlight, everyone is watching to see how they will handle the situation. What they decide to do will have lasting repercussions.