SBD/April 28, 2014/Franchises

Sources: Magic Johnson, Guggenheim Looking To Buy Clippers In Wake Of Sterling Scandal

Johnson believes Sterling should give up the team if he doesn't like African Americans
Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Partners, which partnered to buy the Dodgers and WNBA Sparks, "want a chance to purchase" the Clippers in the wake of the Donald Sterling controversy, according to league sources cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. A source said that Johnson is "absolutely interested." Wojnarowski writes for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the chance to turn the Clippers over to Johnson and his partners "is the best possible of solutions." As an exit strategy, Sterling "could walk away" with a $1B-plus sales price for his franchise and a "final act of goodwill to soften his exile into the sports netherworld" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/28). Johnson: "He shouldn't own a team anymore. And he should stand up and say, 'I don't want to own a team anymore. ... He's got to give up the team. If he doesn't like African Americans -- he's in a league that's over 70% African American" ("NBA Countdown," ABC, 4/27). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Herring & Kamp note it is not currently clear "what course of action" the NBA could take in punishing Sterling. Moreover, it is unclear how the league would "go about sanctioning" Sterling if the comments "prove to have been made by him." Winston & Strawn attorney Jeffrey Kessler said, "Requiring the sale of a team would be the most severe sanction. But I believe the NBA would take the position that the commissioner has the necessary authority to take action" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/28).

LEAGUE LEGALITIES: USA TODAY's Sam Amick notes for Sterling, there "will be a fine" -- a maximum of $1M -- and "there probably will be a suspension." However, the notion that Sterling "will be kicked out of this basketball club that he's been an embarrassing part of since 1981 appears far-fetched -- at the moment." Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is leading the NBPA's search for a new Exec Dir, said that in terms of a punishment, players "want the maximum of what constitutional bylaws will allow, and we're trying to figure out what that is" (USA TODAY, 4/28). ESPN's Michael Wilbon yesterday called for a suspension of "one year, a full season" ("GMA," ABC, 4/27).   SI.com's Michael McCann wrote under the header, "What's Next For NBA In Donald Sterling Case From A Legal Standpoint?" McCann: "Forcibly removing Sterling from the NBA is unlikely to happen." But the NBA "could take a bolder step and take over the day-to-day operations of the Clippers." The league also "must be concerned about the possibility of Sterling suing the NBA and owners" (SI.com, 4/26). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote, "How multimillion dollar sponsors distance themselves from Sterling and the team, season-ticket holders boycott future playoff games or if free-agent players change their minds about playing for the team in the near future all are in play" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/28). Deutsch Inc. Chair Donny Deutsch said "most importantly, advertisers who advertise on the local cable network will not advertise. They can't. So (Sterling's) revenue streams will dry up" ("Morning Joe," MSNBC, 4/28). The AP's Tim Reynolds reports some NBAers "feel for the magnitude of the task Silver is facing." Wizards G Garrett Temple: "What, he's been three months on the job? And he has to deal with an issue like this. It's unfair to him. ... It's going to be a difficult situation for him to take care of, and he's probably going to act swiftly as he said. And he needs to do so. It's a very tough issue. A lot of different sides. But it's more than basketball" (AP, 4/28).

LEAGUE'S PROBLEM: ESPN's Bill Simmons said the NBA needs to "look in the the mirror a little bit. Don’t just blame Donald Sterling. This is a guy they kept around for three-plus decades. … They have to take some accountability. They've got to do the right thing. They've got to figure out a way to get the team away from him.” Simmons added, “My problem is they entitled him, and then by pushing Chris Paul to him, it’s almost like you’re condoning the behavior. I think they should have been much more concentrated on trying to get rid of him.” Simmons: "This is probably the most stubborn owner of any sport and somebody who loves going into courtrooms and fighting battles" (NBA Countdown," ABC, 4/27). Simmons added that this is the "most pressure the league has had" since the Ron Arest incident at the Palace of Auburn Hills in '04 ("Clippers-Warriors," ABC, 4/27).

OWNERS SPEAK OUT: Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, who is among a number owners that have commented on Sterling's alleged remarks, said, "I have plenty of opinions, just not going to share them. Obviously, if any business or entrepreneur says or does things that aren’t congruent with what the organization is trying to convey, that’s a problem. But it’s not my problem" (AP, 4/26). Celtics Managing Partner & CEO Wyc Grousbeck in an e-mail wrote, "We stand as one league led by Commissioner Adam Silver and he speaks for us" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/27). Grousbeck: "I will say that what I heard on that tape goes against everything the Celtics stand for" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/28). Heat Owner Micky Arison in a statement said that the comments are "appalling, offensive and very sad" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/27). Kings Managing Partner Vivek Ranadive: "Those are shameful, reprehensible words, and if they are authenticated then I believe we should have zero tolerance, and I have full faith that the commissioner will do the right thing" (ESPNLA.com, 4/27). Spurs Owner Peter Holt: "The league is doing its own investigation and I don’t want to jump the gun. I don’t know the context, but from what I’ve heard it sounds bad and it isn’t like this is the first go-around for him" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 4/28). Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob: "Racism doesn't belong period, in any way, doesn't matter, black, white, whatever color. Inappropriate. I wish we didn't have to do this today" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/28). Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan issued in a statement said, "I'm obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views" (Bobcats). In Chicago, K.C. Johnson notes Jordan is "often hesitant to address high-profile issues" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/28). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes Jordan has done "everything possible to avoid the ugly business of real life," and that is what makes what he said -- "possibly the first political utterance of his long life -- so compelling" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/28). TNT’s Charles Barkley: “You can’t have a bunch of white guys who are rich, who make a lot of money on the sweat and tears of young black men … not [stand] up for their players. It would be really disrespectful to the players if the owners did not come out and say something” ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 4/28).

THE KING'S SPEECH: Heat F LeBron James on Saturday strongly rebuked the comments by saying, "It's unacceptable in our league" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/27). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote fans have "never heard this public voice" from James before. But Hyde wrote, "You've never heard him take on a heavyweight topic. ... You've never heard this firm, matter-of-fact voice." The best players "should stand for something inside their game, shouldn't they?" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/27). USA TODAY's Amick wrote no NBA player voice "was as loud and profound as that" of James. There are "legal waters that the NBA will have to navigate," but the gap "between what players expect to happen and how this will actually unfold will simply have to be bridged." Players "simply don't want to hear any excuses for why Sterling can't be given the just due they believe he deserves" (USATODAY.com, 4/27). ESPN.com's Michael Wallace wrote as James made the comments, he "never seemed concerned with any potential backlash or repercussions." This "isn't just lip service from James," as he "was fully aware of the reaction his stance would generate" (ESPN.com, 4/27). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote James "impressed" with his comments (MIAMIHERALD.com, 4/26). ESPN.com's Wallace wrote James "is the league's most powerful and influential player calling out one of the NBA's richest and longest-tenured owners." It is the game's "most polarizing and criticized athlete demanding" Silver "take sharp and swift action.  It's notable because these days, there "are very few risk takers" in pro sports (ESPN.com, 4/26).
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