The NBA took the next step toward ousting Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, initiating a charge on Monday to terminate his ownership of the franchise, the league announced.
Under the NBA constitution, Sterling will be provided an opportunity to respond to the charge by May 27 and has the right to appear and make a presentation at a special meeting with the league's board of governors. Sterling's hearing is scheduled for June 3 and will be presided by the NBA's Board of Governors chairman and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.
The league said in a statement that if the three-quarters vote of the other 29 Board of Governors members is met, "all ownership interests in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold to new owners."
The NBA's charge "asserts that Mr. Sterling engaged in conduct that has damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its teams." The NBA also claims Sterling "disparaged African-Americans and minorities; directed a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games; and criticized African-Americans for not supporting their communities."
"Mr. Sterling's actions and positions significantly undermine the NBA's efforts to promote diversity and inclusion; damage the NBA's relationship with its fans; harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel; and impair the NBA's relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders," the NBA said in a statement. "Mr. Sterling engaged in other misconduct as well, including issuing a false and misleading press statement about this matter. All of these acts provide grounds for termination under several provisions of the NBA constitution and related agreements."
The charges result from an audio recording released by TMZ in which Sterling tells his reported girlfriend that he does not want her posting photos of Magic Johnson on her social-media accounts and tells her not to bring African-Americans to Clippers games. NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million and announced the league would work to end his longtime ownership of the franchise.
Sterling, who criticized Johnson in a later interview with CNN, has said through his lawyer that he will fight any attempt to force him to sell, and that he has no plans to pay the league's fine.
The NBA has already hired Dick Parsons as an interim CEO for the Clippers.
Several notable celebrities have already expressed interest in pursuing a purchase of the Clippers, including Johnson and a group that includes Oprah Winfrey, David Geffen and Larry Ellison.
Sterling's wife, Shelly, has said she would like to remain an owner of the franchise, but the league said her stake will be terminated along with that of Sterling if the vote is approved.
The Clippers were eliminated 4-2 by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the playoffs, and the players admitted the Sterling controversy had weighed on them.
"Playoffs are hard enough physically," Clippers forward Matt Barnes said. "But emotionally I think our team was stressed to the max."