Good Question: What Can The NBA Do To Punish A Team Owner?
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The NBA commissioner will address racist statements attributed to LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling on Tuesday. The statements, reportedly between Sterling and his girlfriend, surfaced over the weekend.
In the recordings, a man is heard telling a woman, “Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
Several high-profile people, including Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and President Obama, have criticized the remarks. Others have called for a range of punishments.
“I think the NBA should take the strictest and strongest penalties that they possibly can,” James Rodriguez of Minneapolis said.
On Saturday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the comments saying everyone should be afforded due process. He said the NBA will “move extraordinarily quickly” to investigate and to authenticate the recording and try to understand the context of the conversation.
“There are broad powers in place under the NBA’s constitution and bylaws that include a range of sanctions,” Silver said. “And all of those will be considered depending on the findings of our investigation.”
Experts say it’s likely the NBA will suspend Sterling for a year or more.
“I think one year is too little. I think we’re looking at a two or three year suspension,” Minneapolis sports attorney Lee Hutton said. “During that time, the NBA is hoping Donald Sterling is looking at other investors for the Clippers.”
Owner suspension is allowed in the NBA bylaws.
In 2000, Minnesota Timberwolves’ Glen Taylor was suspended for one year for making a deal that violated salary cap rules. In the 1990s, MLB owner Marge Schott was suspended twice after racist comments and support for Hitler.
“It can be a variety of things. Number one, not attending games, not making decisions, stepping down from, uh, business operational activities,” Hutton said.
Another option is a fine.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been fined just about $2 million over the past several years for a variety of violations. Sterling is reportedly worth $1.9 billion.
“Either sell the team or there should be a very significant monetary fine that, in his world, causes some real pain,” Richard Lee of Minneapolis said.
According to Hutton, the NBA cannot force Sterling to sell the Clippers. The NBA does allow for an ouster in very limited cases, but those are related to finances.
“This is a privately held business that Donald Sterling operates and even if they were to try, I’m pretty sure Donald Sterling, who is a very smart litigant, he would probably return the favor to the NBA and sue them for abuse of power,” Hutton said.
Hutton believes the NBA will now take a closer look at their bylaws to prevent this scenario from happening again by making it easier for owners and the NBA to force out another owner.