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NBA owners take first step toward officially ending Donald Sterling's ownership of Clippers

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie
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Fans hold up signs in support of the Los Angeles Clippers before Game 5 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Los Angeles. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Tuesday that Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life by the league. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The NBA's owners kicked off the process of kicking Donald Sterling out of their club on Thursday, unanimously agreeing to begin the work of totally ousting the banned-for-life Sterling from the league and forcing the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers.

“This afternoon the Advisory/Finance Committee met via conference call to discuss the process for termination of Donald T. Sterling’s ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers," Mike Bass, the NBA's executive vice president of communications, said in a league statement. "The Committee unanimously agreed to move forward as expeditiously as possible and will reconvene next week.”

As detailed in the NBA's just-published constitution and bylaws, an owner's franchise "may be terminated by a vote of three fourths (3/4) of the Board of Governors" — which consists of the owners of NBA franchises — if said owner commits any of a number of willful violations of the provisions of the constitution or other agreements with the league. There's some debate as to whether what Sterling did — which, in case you've somehow managed to miss it, was "make racist comments in conversations with his girlfriend that were recorded and published online" — technically constitutes the sort of breach that would allow for the proper invocation of Article 13, the section of the constitution that governs franchise termination. ESPN.com legal analyst Lester Munson suggests that "Silver and the owners could assert that Sterling's statements violated the constitution's requirements to conduct business on a 'reasonable' and 'ethical' level," but whether that would hold up against a legal challenge remains to be seen.

That three-fourths number means Silver would need 75 percent of the NBA's owners — or 22 of the 29 non-Clippers owners — to vote in favor of terminating Sterling's ownership to turn the Clippers over to the league to control the sale of the franchise. During his press conference, Silver claimed he hadn't taken a head count, but expressed confidence that he had the Board of Governors' backing; the owners of all 29 teams expressed support for Silver's ban on Tuesday before Thursday's unanimous vote to move forward with the ouster "as expeditiously as possible."

The Advisory/Finance Committee is led by Glen Taylor, the owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who is also the chairman of the NBA's Board of Governors. Taylor told Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Tuesday that while all involved want to move things along as quickly as possible, the owners are very aware of Sterling's litigious history and the unprecedented nature of this prospective termination, and want to make sure they've got their i's dotted and t's crossed.

"I think we’re going into some uncharted areas and I think we want to make sure to take each step with caution and make sure we’re doing the right thing, knowing there could be some legal challenges where we’re going," Taylor said. "I think we have to be very careful. We’re in uncharted ground. We want to move in one sense with some speed but in another sense making sure that we come to a conclusion here.”

Sterling has said that the Clippers are not for sale and reportedly said he will fight a forced sale in court.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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