NBA owners will likely force out the disgraced Donald Sterling, one owner said on Wednesday, as speculation intensified about who would snap up the Los Angeles Clippers after the billionaire was banned for making racist comments.
National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver hit the 80-year-old Sterling with a lifetime ban from all NBA activities and the maximum $US2.5 million ($A2.70 million) fine on Tuesday, steep penalties that drew praise from far and wide – including US President Barack Obama.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Wednesday that Obama believes the league did the right thing in response to Sterling’s racist comments.
Obama had weighed into the controversy over the weekend during a trip to Asia, calling Sterling’s secretly recorded comments “incredibly offensive racist statements”.
A vote of three quarters of owners is needed to force the real estate tycoon to sell – he is the longest-serving owner in the NBA after buying the team for $US12 million ($A12.98 million) in 1981 – and Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive told ESPN Radio that he expects a unanimous 29-0 vote in favour.
A forced sale could come at an opportune time for Sterling, whose club has been valued by Forbes at $US575 million ($A622.13 million) but could go for much more with the NBA preparing to renegotiate its lucrative national television contract.
But Sterling hasn’t shied away from litigation in the past and could choose to fight expulsion from the league through the courts. He did not immediately respond to Silver’s sanctions and has kept a low profile since a recording of his racist comments surfaced on Saturday.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James said Sterling has to go, no matter how long the fight.
“The job is still not done,” James said after Miami Heat training, in comments reported by The Miami Herald. “We need the owners to step up and do their part … No matter how long it takes, no matter how much it costs, we need to get him out of there.”
Sterling’s comments, uttered to his girlfriend and made public by celebrity news website TMZ, sparked a firestorm within the league – in which most of the players are black – and beyond.
Sterling, who confirmed to the NBA that it was his voice on the recording, told his girlfriend that he did not want her associating with black people or bringing black friends to Clippers games.
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” says Sterling, who is married.
Clippers coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers, whose team emerged from the quagmire of the scandal on Tuesday to beat the Golden State Warriors and seize a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series, preached patience.
“The quicker this is done, the better for everyone. Having said that, it’s going to take time and we all have to be patient,” Rivers said.
Hollywood moguls, sports stars and rappers have either voiced interest or have been linked to purchasing a stake in the franchise.
Boxers Floyd Mayweather and Oscar de la Hoya, former Los Angeles Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson and the likes of billionaire media tycoon David Geffen and talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and rap mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs have all been mentioned.