The reports – by sources not authorized to comment on the negotiations – said that Shelly Sterling was negotiating the sale of the team but wanted to retain a minority interest
That creates a complicated mix for the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver has banned Donald Sterling for life after his secretly recorded racist rant against African American players -- including former star Magic Johnson.
Sterling has been charged with damaging the league and causing it to come into disrepute through his comments. So far, Sterling has refused to pay the $2.5 million fine, which also violates the NBA constitution and the agreement he signed as a team owner.
But a prolonged court fight could be bad for the league as well. Roshini Rajkumar is a licensed attorney and the author of Communicate That! Your Toolbox for Powerful Presence. She told VOA that the last thing the NBA wants is a drawn-out fight with the Sterlings.
“This certainly does not help the NBA in any way," she said. "It reminds us – every time one team gets a strike against it, reporters dig up all the other bad things that have happened in the NBA so you are seeing those anecdotes come back to life because of the Sterling controversy,” Rajkumar said.
Technically, the Clippers are owned by the Sterling Family Trust, in the names of Donald and Shelly Sterling. And Commissioner Silver said the league’s actions were against Donald Sterling only.
But players want both Sterlings to lose any control of the team. Miami Heat star player LeBron James said the sooner the Sterlings are gone, the better.
“I mean it’s very important," James said. "We don’t want this lingering around our sport. It sucks that it happened, but the players the owners and everyone associated with this game – there’s no need for it so, the quicker it gets done, the quicker we can move on," he added.
But moving on might not be as simple as getting rid of Donald Sterling. Last week, controversial Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told Inc., Magazine that if he saw “a black kid in a hoodie, and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street.” Cuban said he would also avoid what he called “a bald white guy with tattoos on the street.”
Cuban has not said how he will vote in Sterling’s case, but many observers have defended his comments because the Mavericks’ owner said to charge someone else with racism while harboring racist thoughts made him a hypocrite.
Roshini Rajkumar says that a prolonged court fight with Donald Sterling would not be good for the league’s image.
“I don’t know that a lot of owners are going to want to open themselves up to the depositions that could follow if they decide to forcibly oust him," she said. "And then his legal team might come back at them and then fully open up the lids of every other team and other possible racial behavior or misdeeds of the other owners,” Rajkumar said.
LeBron James says that players are hoping the situation is resolved quickly.
“I mean we all hoped that it would go fast but we also know the judicial system as well and litigations can go on from time to time to time," James said after a Miami practice. "So obviously you have to be patient with that. But we are all optimistic that it will go faster,” he added.
Day in Court
Sterling has to respond to the NBA’s charges by Tuesday. He also has the right to appear at a June 3rd hearing in New York and to make a presentation to the league before it votes whether or not to terminate his ownership.
A three-quarters vote of the league owners is needed to strip Sterling of the team. The league says the same is true if Shelly Sterling owns the Clippers.