The reports that emerged on Friday which stated that Donald Sterling has agreed to allow his wife Shelly to negotiate a forced sale of the Clippers may have seemed like good news for the league, at least on the surface.
What remains to be seen is if the league will allow the Sterlings to do so, because keeping them in charge any longer than they have to be is bad for the league.
For example, there is concerns the handshake agreement between the couple was possibly made by Sterling with the potential for future litigation in mind.
That’s just one of a multitude of reasons that the NBA is unlikely to let the sale of the Clippers unfold in this way, certainly not with Shelly Sterling acting as the official controlling owner — something that would require an approval that the league isn’t at all interested in giving.
From Michael McCann of SI.com:
Donald Sterling is the controlling owner of the Clippers, while Shelly Sterling is a non-controlling owner. Importantly, and as explained fully here, the NBA must approve a change in designation from a non-controlling to a controlling owner.
Sources familiar with the NBA have told SI.com the league will not approve Shelly Sterling as controlling-owner. The league does not want the Sterlings involved with the NBA. The league also has wide discretion to reject new owners, including for reasons of moral character. Shelly Sterling’s ties to her husband in the housing lawsuits could be grounds alone for the NBA to reject her as controlling owner (the fact that Donald Sterling was not disciplined over the housing litigation does not preclude the league from using the litigation against Shelly).
By allowing Shelly Sterling to negotiate the sale of the team as a controlling owner, the league would open itself up to a whole host of issues, the most important of which would be a loss of control over the timetable for ousting the Sterlings as owners.
The NBA released a statement saying that this recent development would not deter it from continuing the process to terminate Sterling’s ownership, with the next major step set to take place when a hearing is convened on June 3. If the league were to allow Shelly Sterling to oversee and negotiate the sale of the team, that’s something that could drag on for several months — long enough for the players to feel that with the Sterlings still in the picture, a boycott may be worth reconsidering.
It’s worth remembering that any decision made by Sterling at this stage of the proceedings is done with potential future litigation in mind, which could include an anti-trust lawsuit should the league choose a future ownership group of the Clippers that doesn’t necessarily make the highest bid for the team.
But that’s just one reason the NBA isn’t going to go along with this. The main one is that the league wants to continue on its path to rid itself of the Sterlings as quickly as possible.