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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Should Sterling Be Forced To Sell The Clippers?

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano, left, watch the Clippers play the Sacramento Kings during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Oct. 25, 2013. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano, left, watch the Clippers play the Sacramento Kings during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Oct. 25, 2013. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

After those racists comments made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling were confirmed, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned him from the league for life, fined him $2.5 million and said the other owners would force him to sell the team.

But there are critics of the idea that Sterling should be forced to sell the Clippers. As Mike Pesca writes in Slate, “Donald Sterling is a vile racist… But even a horrible human being doesn’t deserve to have his property stripped away.”

Pesca discusses that point of view with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.

Tell us what you think on Facebook or in the comments.





And today, the NBA owners' advisory and finance committee is discussed in the next steps regarding Donald Sterling, the L.A. Clippers owner who was banned from the NBA for life, after being caught on tape making racist comments. On Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver endorsed a forced sale of the team.

ADAM SILVER: As for Mr. Sterling's ownership interest in the Clippers, I will urge the board of governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team, and will do everything in my power to ensure that that happens.

HOBSON: That would require the votes of three-quarters of the league's 29 other owners. And Silver said on Tuesday he was confident he has those votes. But HERE AND NOW sports analyst Mike Pesca says this sets a bad precedent. He hosts the podcast The Gist on Slate.com and he joins us now.

And, Mike, you say Donald Sterling is a vile racist but you say he shouldn't be forced to sell the team. Why not?

MIKE PESCA: I think there are a couple of troubling things about the entire set of circumstances. One: the tape that we have of Sterling is probably most likely illegally recorded. And the only way that that was addressed was that Adam Silver said: Well, OK, that's true, but now that we know we have to act on it. I understand that point but it's very problematic.

Two: it was a thought crime. I mean they're coming down hard on these thoughts of Sterling's. They're horrible thoughts. They're vile thoughts. They're thoughts you don't want in the league. And I understand if you're a black player or anyone of conscience, you would say: I'm not going to play for this guy, I don't give this guy any money, he needs to be out.

Yet it is his property. And I think that stripping a person of one's property, based on terrible thoughts that he expresses, is a really bad and dangerous thing. Now, they can do it. I'm not saying they can't do it. It's like a co-op board, it's a franchise. I don't think that they've thought about it enough. And even when Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said essentially what I'm saying now, it's a little bit of a slippery slope - what if they don't like my thoughts. The next day he turned around and said: You know what? A hundred percent great that they're taking out of the league.

HOBSON: OK, I want to get to a lot of the things that you just brought up there. First of all, let's talk about the idea of stripping him of his property. He wouldn't be stripped of his property. He would be forced to sell it for hundreds of millions of dollars more than he paid for it.

PESCA: Yeah. No, that's a good point. I shouldn't have said stripping of his property. That's not right. That takes it too far. I still think that forcing someone to sell is a bad - or it's at least a precedence to grapple with more than the NBA seems to have done.

He's a terrible person. I will not shed a tear. I want him to get his comeuppance. I think a better way for the commissioner to have done it would be perhaps to hold this over his head and to say that, you know, we'd like Sterling to come to this decision on his own. And also, you know, if fans - even encourage fans, if fans want to turn their back on the team, that is totally legitimate. And maybe, this is the suggestion of the Houston Rockets owners, maybe all the players under his contract could become free agents so you don't have to play for the team.

If he had trouble actually fielding a team, I mean why would the NBA do this, right? This would hurt NBA - the NBA's interest. But that seems to be more just than terrible person says terrible things, therefore from on high we remove the wart and don't really, you know, discuss what's going on subcutaneously.

HOBSON: OK, let me get to one other part of that which is that he has violated the rules of this league that he's in. It's not that they're making him sell his house. That's just his house and has nothing to do with anybody else. It's they are forcing him to sell something that is part of a league that has rules.

PESCA: If you look at the NBA charter, which was heretofore a secret document, they spell out all the rules that a violation of which would redound to you being stripped of your team. They're mostly about gambling. There are some of them are about economic rules and not having enough money.

There's nothing in there about having moronic thoughts or odious opinions, you know. There is a general clause, as most organizations like this have, where you say, you know, or anything else the commissioner deems, you know, impermissible or terrible. That's what they're going on.

If you look though at the letter of the law, the maximum fine for those odious thoughts or anything the commissioner wants to do, the maximum fine is a million. And they did fine him two and a half million. The league allows for two and a half million dollar fine but that's only on the spelled-out rules related to gambling and so forth.

I don't know if that's a good argument. I'm pretty sure Donald Sterling will be making this argument as he litigates that, which brings us to another point, this great moment where he asks - where Silver asks for this vote and he thinks that the owners are going to back him up. You know, if Sterling drags this out and plays this out in court, this can undo this entire moment.

You know, so I don't know how it will play out. But if it comes to pass that Sterling wins a court case or plays a court case out so long, or dies while it's still being litigated, it will be seen much less of a triumph.

HOBSON: OK, Mark Cuban, who you brought up, has said similar things to what you are saying. Let's listen to a clip of him speaking before the lifetime ban punishment was announced.

MARK CUBAN: In this country, people are allowed to be morons. They're allowed to be stupid, they're allowed to think idiotic thoughts. And, you know, within an organization like the NBA, we try to do what's in the best interest of the league, and that's why we have a commissioner and a constitution, and I think Adam will, you know, be smart and, you know, deal with Donald to the full extent available to him.

But again, in terms of just saying a blanket let's kick him out, I don't want to go that far because that - it's not about Donald, it's not about his position. It's about who's next.

HOBSON: Those comments from Mark Cuban. But Mike Pesca, you have brought up the fact that it's interesting that the NBA is reacting so harshly now when this guy's got quite a history, Sterling.

PESCA: Yeah, I think it's interesting. I also think it's predictable and odious. I'm not saying that, hey, they got it wrong in the past, therefore they shouldn't do anything in the present. It's separate arguments. I do think that this moment of triumph that Adam Silver is being credited for should be less seen as a bold, brave, moral stance and more seen as a prudent business decision that's covering up for the flaws in ethics that the NBA has been exhibiting for years and years and years.

And one thing that I really wanted to see that isn't being done and is being brushed aside is I'd love to see an investigation, a soul-searching, legitimate internal investigation about how someone like Donald Sterling could have been allowed to operate given his documented past of housing discrimination and racism.

This is a real moment, a real reckoning, a real time to say that racism will not be allowed to exist in our major sports. I'd like to see baseball look at Jim Crane, the owner of the Astros, who - I'm not comparing, I'm not equating with Donald Sterling, but he has business practices, he has EEOC violations, he has statements like don't hire black people because you can't fire black people, and all baseball has done is backed up Jim Crane as a fine, upstanding man, who's, you know, gotten the blessing of the NAACP and black leaders and was properly vetted while he owned the team.

HOBSON: Mike Pesca, host of The Gist at Slate.com and HERE AND NOW's sports analyst. Mike, thanks so much.

PESCA: You're welcome.

HOBSON: And we'd love to hear from you because I know you've got thoughts on this. You can go to hereandnow.org and leave a comment. You can also send us a tweet, @hereandnow. I'm @jeremyhobson. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Ray in VT

    Should he be banned from the NBA? If he is kicked out of the NBA club, how can he continue to own the team?

    He shouldn’t have his ranch taken from him, but the members of the NBA can kick him out of their club. If he is not a member of the NBA club, the team should be sold and he should get the proceeds.

    If anyone watches Mad Men, Don Draper just agreed to let the owners of his company to take his shares from him if he messes up again. He could have stayed home and get his check on leave, but he wanted to work. The other owners didn’t want to buy him out of his shares, so they had to take him back (at the company he founded).

    • thekingslayer

      if he is forced to sell it will cost him 33 percent of his gains plus state and local taxes

      • thekingslayer

        which equates to over 400 million f his team were sold at current value

  • Rick

    Another day of coverage for the white-on-black racism story. All the while, ignoring any cases of black-on-white racism. Here’s a story that I bet NPR won’t covet at all: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/04/30/Black-Teenagers-Assault-White-Teenager-on-Bus

    A presumably innocent white teenager was beaten by a group of black males. You can bet it would be all over national news if the skin colors were the other way around.

    • Whitesauce

      You’re right that NPR won’t covet a Breitbart story because Breitbart is a race baiter. Are you defending Sterling? Do you think that the owner of a team in a sport dominated by African-American athletes should be racist? Do you think the NBA has no say over who owns a team?

    • informedLI

      Breitbart may as well be the National Enquirer of political reporting. You aren’t seriously citing it as a reference are you?

      • Rick

        So you’re saying the incident never happened?

        Look on Google News and you will find many other sources for it. I’m not going to do your homework for you.

  • Frog

    When a company I own stock in gets merged or spun-off, I get a vote to reject the offer, but if I get out-voted I get no choice in retaining my ownership. I get bought out. Not exactly the same but similar.

  • Joe Mahma


    I need somebody to explain to me how the things Sterling said in the illegal recording are in fact racist in nature. It seems like he’s voicing a personal preference more than anything. I really don’t hear him making any kind of judgments about inferiority of the black race.

    • informedLI

      Just what exactly does a man have to say to convince you he’s a racist? Does he have to shave his head and wear a white sheet? I’ll paraphrase…He told his mistress that he didn’t want her hanging out in public with black people, bringing them to his games, or being photographed with them because it would make her appear to be “low class” and him also by association.

      • thekingslayer

        once again i suspect that his comments were primarily those of a jealous old man. secondly ms. Stivano was encouraging him to continue even though he wanted to end the conversation. I am not supporting his comments and i think they were tasteless

  • Whitesauce

    The NBA is a nonprofit entity that has antitrust protections. Without these protections, the league operates illegally. They have every right to force Sterling to sell. I think Pesca has to look at this through a different lens. Because teams are separate entities under their bylaws, they have to be able to self-police in their best interest. Sterling has agreed to abide by these laws. To deny the right to force the sale, you would have to negate bylaws in all sports leagues. Pesca has the right to argue his point, but I think he’s misguided.

    • thekingslayer

      the laws say bnothing about racist remarks

      • Whitesauce

        Correct, but the bylaws give broad authority to the owners, providing 75% agree.


    Mike Pesca is out to lunch………… again. Mr. Sterling signed the agreement with other owners, therefore it should be clear, he can be forced to sell the Clippers. So why is this an issue? Answer: Attorneys! Mr. Sterling is not only a landlord of the allegedly the lowest form, he is also an attorney – this combination speaks for itself!
    What we are really observing is an attorney’s dream case with attorneys creating grey faux areas of law where grey areas should not exist especially in this pending case, in short attorneys (mostly Jewish attorneys) will make make millions from this fiasco. With Mr. Sterling’s billions, this case will go on forever until the last dog or Mr. Sterling dies. What we really have is two Jewish guys, Mr. Silver and Mr. Donald Tokowitz aka Donald Sterling butting heads….. kinda of like the Jews butting heads with the Palestinians…. a game of attrition with the wealthiest winning. This is the problem when people earn too much money.


    Part II:
    What we should do now to save money for American tax payers is to force Cliven Bundy, the Nevada tax and range fees cheat, to sell his herd of cows along with his ranch. It is time to get rid of these racist faux cowboys who don’t like to pay taxes. Perhaps Mike Pesca could make a few solid comments on Cliven Bundy?

  • Cmdg

    I haven’t heard anyone say yet, and I expect that no one wants to , that it’s not simply a matter of opinion or free speech, but that Mr. Sterling’s remarks include the majority of the players who work for him. We’re all too familiar with people who are willing to use people without letting them sit at the table. If Mr. Sterling has no more respect than this for the talented people who contribute to his wealth, he does not deserve to be a team owner.

    • Guest

      Slippery slope! As a hispanic that has been on the receiving end of racist comments; I still rather be insulted and have the opportunity to be free to, through civilized argument and opinions, influence those who insult me rather than live in a society where opinions are imposed on others and it doesn’t matter what is really in our hearts as long as we fake it. We can’t seem to make our minds; we critizice those who want to impose their opinions and values (religion) on us but isn’t this the same thing? Not imposing values or opinions as long as they are not contrary to ours seems to be the trend!

  • John

    I think Mr Sterling should be ” encouraged ” to put the franchise in a irrevocable trust and then choose who He would like to run the franchise on a day to day basis pending league approval and thus become a silent partner type Owner.

  • drwacker

    Thank you, Mike for not being afraid to speak the truth. I’ve been watching/listening to all the “self-righteous” commentators spouting off about what a vile man Sterling is who deserves to be destroyed. I cannot defend Mr. Sterling’s remarks, but if our private remarks can be made public to our detriment, what’s next? Thought control? (when it becomes possible). I find flag-burning to be contemptible, but the burner has a constitutional right to do so. Last time I read the Constitution, privately stating racist views wasn’t against the law. Not morally right, but not illegal.

    • informedLI

      Again- Mr Sterling is not being punished by the government! He is being punished by the NBA- the government has absolutely nothing to do with this. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights only apply to the US government- corporations are dictatorships! You have no civil rights in a corporation. No freedom of speech, no privacy, no free press, no protections from unreasonable search and seizure, no right to hear the charges against you, no fair trial… nothing. They can do whatever they want to protect their brand and their business.

  • Dan Kreutzer

    Pesca argues on the wrong side of this racist rant. He was over-reaching which the host called him on. The “stripped” comment. He kept using inflammatory language–”odious” in and of it self. Mr. Sterling can have all the racist “thoughts” which do become words, by the way, he wants. But he is in an organization that has rules of conduct in public. Every organization has a inherent right to police its members. Pesca, me thinks, doth protest too much

  • thekingslayer

    Many people jumping on the bandwagon against Mr. Sterling. His comments were distasteful, thoughtless and ignorant. However i suspect that his comments were primarily based on jealousy not racism. The illegal recording should be of more concern . what if someone hacked your phone then recorded the conversation and used it against you. Miss Stivano should be held accountable for her actions. Mr Sterling’s ban and 2.5 million dollar fine are appropriate. Losing his team is unacceptable.

    • informedLI

      Stiviano didn’t break any laws. I’m not even sure it was her that gave the recording to TMZ. It may have been his wife! (In that case, I’m impressed!) Privacy laws and warrantless recordings only apply to the government. The NBA can do whatever it wants to protect it’s brand and it’s image- “deserved” has nothing to do with it- it’s business.

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