Several luminaries from sports and show business, Oprah Winfrey among them, signaled an interest in buying the Los Angeles Clippers as the NBA set a first meeting to weigh removing Donald Sterling as owner over racist remarks attributed to him.
A day after Sterling was banned for life from the National Basketball Association, two of the league’s 29 other team owners, including the governing board’s chairman, said they expected to reach the three-fourths majority vote needed to expel Sterling fully, a move unprecedented in NBA history.
The advisory finance committee of the board scheduled a meeting on Thursday to review the next steps for forcing a sale of the Clippers, as urged on Tuesday by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, a league spokeswoman said.
Sterling, who bought the Clippers in 1981 for $13 million when the team was based in San Diego, has not indicated whether he would relinquish ownership without a fight. Still, the move to expel Sterling from the league altogether fanned speculation about potential buyers.
Other names floated as possible suitors include former NBA Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson and champion boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr and Oscar De La Hoya.
Although Silver said he would seek to force a sale of the Clippers immediately, the process could take weeks.
According to NBA bylaws, Silver must present a written copy of any allegations against Sterling within three days, and Sterling would have five days to answer. A special hearing of the Board of Governors, consisting of all the owners, will be held on a date no more than 10 days after Sterling’s reply.
Asked whether Sterling, 80, could end up an absentee owner if the governing board declined to force a team sale, Silver told reporters, “I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him.”
Glen Taylor, owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves and interim chair of the NBA Board of Governors, said the ideal course of action would be if Sterling just agreed to a sale.
Lawyers with expertise in sports law gave Sterling little chance of successfully suing the NBA to block a forced sale, citing league governance rules that all owners must accept.