Report: NBA probably can’t simply force Donald Sterling to sell Clippers

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If the NBA’s investigation into Donald Sterling’s alleged comments corroborates the TMZ report, then what?

That’s the giant elephant in the room.

As much as everyone wants Sterling to get his just due – whatever they feel that may be – there are rules in place. That’s part of the reason Adam Silver wouldn’t address specific consequences.

Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated:

Forcibly removing Sterling from the NBA is unlikely to happen. The NBA’s constitution, which is confidential, reportedly contains language permitting owners to authorize the league to sell a team without an owner’s consent. The language, SI.com is told, only covers very limited circumstances and these circumstances concern team finances — namely, when an owner can’t pay his bills.

There is reportedly no language authorizing the NBA to sell a team because of an owner’s hurtful remarks or embarrassing behavior. Even if constitutional language could be construed to authorize a forced sale of the Clippers, NBA owners would likely be reluctant to do so given the precedent it would set.

In theory, Silver and the NBA’s other owners can take any actions they see fit. Maybe those actions even violate the league’s constitution. Sterling always has the recourse of pursuing legal avenues himself if he feels they do.

Or maybe he goes quietly into the night, cashing out on a franchise that would surely draw many bidders. He and the NBA can always agree to bypass the league’s constitution.

The rules are in place, and they can influence what happens next. But so much remains uncertain.