ESPN reports that Donald Sterling has authorized his wife, Shelly, to negotiate a sale of the Los Angeles Clippers in the face of the NBA's progress towards terminating his ownership.
Donald Sterling has agreed to allow his wife Shelly to negotiate a forced sale of the Clippers, source tells ESPN.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 23, 2014
It remains to be seen how the NBA will react to such efforts, which could provide Sterling with a massive windfall that could go above $1 billion according to some estimates. The Associated Press reported that the decision came after weeks of discussion.
The NBA has yet to accept the terms of this new arrangement between Shelly and Donald. She'll need to sell it all for them to consider.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 23, 2014
SI.com breaks down how the NBA still has to approve any transfer of ownership between Sterling and his wife. Meanwhile, USA Today reports that Shelly Sterling wants to retain some measure of ownership in the team, which, spoiler alert, isn't going to happen. The relevance of Donald Sterling's decision in the reports to transfer ownership hinges on whether this means the Sterlings will quietly work with the team to find a new owner or if they are positioning Shelly Sterling to retain control and keep the team in the family through minority ownership. The league has made it pretty clear it doesn't intend to allow any Sterlings to retain any ownership and has already begun measures to ensure that.
The NBA issued a statement Friday afternoon in response to the reports that was short and sweet.
“We continue to follow the process set forth in the NBA Constitution regarding termination of the current ownership interests in the Los Angeles Clippers and are proceeding toward a hearing on this matter on June 3.”
The report comes in the wake of a leaked report that shows the extent to which Donald Sterling, Shelly Sterling and former Clippers president Andy Roeser tried to cover up the scandal following the leak of Donald Sterling's recorded comments last month.
The biggest piece of news here is that Donald Sterling has authorized the forced sale instead of moving forward with intent to sue to keep control of the team. It could mean a much swifter conclusion to a situation both the team and league need to move past.
The saga began as the NBA started it investigation following leaked recordings of racist comments from Sterling on April 25. Reactions from sports figures and those around the league were strong and swift. The President of the United States even weighed in on the matter during an overseas trip. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson and NBPA President Chris Paul reacted and met with Adam Silver that weekend. LeBron James came out with a strong position against the comments. The Clippers players reportedly considered boycotting Game 4 against the Warriors, eventually putting their warmups on inside-out to hide the logo.
On April 29, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a lifetime ban on Donald Sterling from all NBA events and matters, fined him $2 million and said he would urge the league's owners to pursue termination of Donald Sterling's ownership. Reports surfaced immediately that Donald Sterling had indicated the team was not for sale. Additional reports surfaced that Magic Johnson, who was the subject of Donald Sterling's comments to his girlfriend/mistress/associate V. Stiviano that started this mess, had interest in buying the team.
Weeks later, Donald Sterling conducted an interview with CNN in which he, somehow, managed to make things worse, talking about Magic Johnson's "AIDS" (Johnson contracted the HIV virus in the early 90s and has never tested positive of AIDS), and making half-apologies while also issuing vague comments about minorities.
His wife, Shelly Sterling, said in subsequent weeks after the ban was issued that she and the family intended to fight the efforts of sale to maintain control of the team. The NBA responded by revealing that NBA bylaws allow for the league to terminate all minority shares in the event of an affirming vote to terminate majority ownership.
On May 1, the NBA Advisory Committee unanimously voted to move forward with the process of ownership termination. On May 6, the NBA placed longtime Clippers president Andy Roeser, who has since been implicated in the cover up surrounding the comments, on indefinite leave. Three days later, the NBA appointed former Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons as CEO. On Monday, the NBA filed a former charge against Sterling, outlining their case against him and set a hearing to vote for termination of ownership.
There are many questions that arise from the news that Donald Sterling has authorized the sale of the team. Chief among them:
Will Shelly Sterling assent to working with the league on both asking price and who the new ownership will be?
Will the NBA allow for Shelly Sterling to control the sale of the team? Adam Silver said at the lottery that he was open to the Sterlings selling the team ahead of the NBA's timeline to avoid the process of termination. The NBA maintains hold over the team and its Board of Governors have to approve any sale of the team, so the Sterlings remain only partially in control of this situation.
How much money will the Sterlings generate from such a sale? The team is valued by some reported estimates at over $1 billion. How will the public and players union react to the Sterlings absorbing that kind of windfall?
And finally, who will be the new owners?
All these questions and more are yet to be answered, but this news does represent one major development in an ugly series of events that have overshadowed the NBA playoffs: Donald Sterling, it seems, no longer intends to fight the league for control of the team. Silver's strong and prudential approach to this matter has limited his options. It's only a matter of time now before Donald Sterling is gone from the NBA, forever.