No NBA owners plan to side with embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the heaviest sanctions possible against the owner, including putting Sterling's ownership rights to a vote. Without the support of the owners, Sterling would be forced to sell his team, according to the Associated Press, which contacted a majority of NBA ownership groups on Tuesday.
The news that a Clippers fire sale may be under way has sent the elite to their piggy banks to see if they have enough loose change to bond together to purchase the team. So far early reports have boxer Floyd Mayweather, Bad Boy CEO Sean Combs and OWN CEO Oprah Winfrey all boxing out for position to grab the Clippers' reins. While Mayweather and Combs have merely expressed interest, ESPN has announced that Winfrey, David Geffen and Larry Ellison will join together to make a serious run at owning the team.
"Oprah is not interested in running the team," Geffen told ESPN. "She thinks it would be a great thing for an important black American to own [another] franchise.
"The team deserves a better group of owners who want to win," he continued. "Larry would sooner die than fail. I would sooner die than fail. Larry's a sportsman. We've talked about this for a long time. Between the three of us, we have a good shot."
According to ESPN, the music-and-movie mogul, who is worth a reported $6.2 billion, was rebuffed by Sterling in 2010 when he attempted to buy a controlling stake in the Clippers for $600 million.
But before the team could be sold, 75 percent of the current owners would have to vote for Sterling to lose his rights to the team. Of the 24 teams contacted by AP, 16 ownership groups said that they believe Sterling should be forced to sell his team, and another eight declined to say which way they planned to vote. But none of the teams contacted by AP said they would support Sterling. With a total of 30 teams in the NBA, for Sterling to be forced to sell, three-quarters of them would have to vote in favor of it—meaning 22 yes votes if 29 teams vote, and 23 votes if the Clippers also have a vote.
Silver issued an extremely stiff series of sanctions against the league's longest-tenured owner in response to recorded racist comments that were leaked on TMZ. Silver imposed a lifetime ban against Sterling, fined him $2.5 million, and said he will rally other teams in the NBA to support his decision to have Sterling sell the team.
Shortly after Silver's announcement, most teams in the league—including the Clippers—issued statements supporting the move.
"The Commissioner was correct to ban Mr. Sterling from all official NBA business, to levy the stiffest allowable fine, and we will support his recommendation to press for Mr. Sterling to relinquish his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise," read a statement from Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and team President Michael Reinsdorf, AP reports. "We believe Commissioner Silver's decision reflects the best interests of the NBA and public civility."
Longtime sportscaster Jim Gray, who spoke with Sterling moments before Silver's announcement, told Fox News that Sterling has no plans to sell the club. According to AP, the league will have to present Sterling with some form of notice informing him that they intend to seek the termination of his ownership. Sterling will have an opportunity to respond. Presumably, at that point the league's board of governors would then be called for a vote.
"I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him," Silver said.