In the run-up to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's press conference announcing the result of his investigation into audio recordings featuring racist comments allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling — who has since acknowledged it was his voice on the tape, and who received a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine on Tuesday — much of the discussion over potential punishments centered on the procedures and provisions included in the NBA's constitution and bylaws.
Silver had previously referenced "broad powers" granted him by the document, which governs the owners of the 30 NBA teams and lays out the authority and responsibilities of the commissioner, but their exact nature remained unclear, because the document wasn't available to the public; we could only rely on the elements of it shared by sources who had seen it. Well, in visiting the NBA's Media Central site earlier this afternoon to look for the league's transcript of Silver's remarks at his hammer-swinging Tuesday presser, I saw something that surprised me: the league had published the whole kit and caboodle, continuing Silver's stated commitment to transparency during his tenure in office:
As Deadspin's Barry Petchesky notes, Article 24(l) — the section that includes the "best interests of the Association" clause — seems like the relevant passage in levying Sterling's lifetime ban:
The Commissioner shall, wherever there is a rule for which no penalty is specifically fixed for violation thereof, have the authority to fix such penalty as in the Commissioner's judgment shall be in the best interests of the Association. Where a situation arises which is not covered in the Constitution and By-Laws, the Commissioner shall have the authority to make such decision, including the imposition of a penalty, as in his judgment shall be in the best interests of the Association. The penalty that may be assessed under the preceding two sentences may include, without limitation, a fine, suspension, and/or the forfeiture or assignment of draft choices. No monetary penalty fixed under this provision shall exceed $2,500,000.
Whether, or what degree, Sterling can fight his punishment in the courts remains a matter of some debate. ESPN.com legal analyst Lester Munson is skeptical that Sterling could litigate his way out of punishment, but Sports Illustrated's Michael McCann anticipates both debate over the proper interpretation of the constitution's language as it relates to Sterling's ouster and — perhaps more significantly — anxiety over the prospect of a high-profile legal battle that could include some ugly revelations during the discovery phrase.
Where exactly Sterling's saga goes next remains to be seen, but if nothing else, at least we now know the specifics of what's being fought over, and the ability to do our own legwork when it comes time to draw conclusions on future ownership issues.
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