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Volume 20 No. 42
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Shown the door: Other leagues

The NBA is not the only major professional sports league with the power to ban an owner with cause or to force the sale of a franchise. The NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer also have mechanisms available to take such action.


The league’s Personal Conduct Policy states that all NFL owners, executives, game officials and players are required to avoid “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League.” Commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to fine, suspend and ban an owner but needs approval of three-quarters of the league’s teams to force a sale.

When reading the NFL’s explanation of the Personal Conduct Policy in its bylaws, one cannot help but think of Donald Sterling and the public relations impact of the past week’s stories on the NBA:

“For many years, it has been well understood that rules promoting lawful, ethical, and responsible conduct serve the interests of the League, its players, and fans,” the NFL bylaws state. “Illegal or irresponsible conduct does more than simply tarnish the offender. It puts innocent people at risk, sullies the reputation of others involved in the game, and undermines public respect and support for the NFL.”


Commissioner Gary Bettman has full authority to discipline any individual, including via suspension or expulsion.
 According to the NHL bylaws, the individual must be “guilty of conduct (whether during or outside the playing season) detrimental to the League or the game of hockey.”

Ownership of a franchise can be terminated by approval of three-quarters of the teams.


The empowering “best interests of baseball” clause goes back to 1922 and Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Article 2 (“The Commissioner”), Section 3 of Major League Baseball’s bylaws states: “In the case of conduct by Major League Clubs, owners, officers, employees or players that is deemed by the Commissioner not to be in the best interests of Baseball, punitive action by the Commissioner for each offense may include any one or more of the following: (a) a reprimand; (b) deprivation of a Major League Club of representation in Major League Meetings; (c) suspension or removal of any owner, officer or employee of a Major League Club.”

A vote of three-quarters of the major league clubs is needed for involuntary termination of the “rights, privileges and properties of a major league club.” The bylaws outline 12 instances where this action could be taken, including if the party in question should “fail or refuse to comply with any requirement of the Commissioner.”


As commissioner, Don Garber has broad disciplinary powers that include the full and complete authority to discipline any owner, governor, team president, general manager, coach or other employee, including suspending such person. It falls to the league’s Board of Governors to terminate any team’s operating agreement and to purchase the associated equity under circumstances that are deemed worthy of such action.

— Christopher Botta