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Donald Sterling charged by NBA; hearing set for June 3

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling looks on

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling looks on during the first half of their game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 2011. Credit: AP / Mark J. Terrill

The NBA formally charged Donald Sterling yesterday with violating its constitution and bylaws, and has set up a June 3 hearing, after which owners are expected to vote to remove him as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

In a statement, the league said that Sterling "engaged in conduct that has damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its teams. Among other things, Mr. Sterling disparaged African-Americans and 'minorities', directed a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games, and criticized African-Americans for not supporting their communities."

On April 29, Sterling was banned for life and fined $2.5 million by commissioner Adam Silver after the release of a recording in which he made racist remarks to a female companion. At the news conference announcing Sterling's banishment, Silver said he would ask owners to vote to remove Sterling from the league, adding that he believed he had the votes to get it done.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor will preside over the hearing, which is planned for two days before the start of the NBA Finals.

The NBA constitution provides Sterling with the opportunity to respond to the charge by May 27, as well as the right to appear and make a presentation at the hearing. Afterward, if three-fourths of the owners vote to sustain the charge, Sterling will be told to sell the team.

Sterling's lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, had a message on his office voice mail Monday afternoon saying he would have no comment at this time.

Indications are, however, that Sterling will not sell the team he has owned since 1982 without a fight. In a letter to the league last week, Blecher, a prominent antitrust lawyer, informed the league that Sterling would not pay the $2.5 million fine and would sue if he is not afforded due process.

The NBA's constitution, which Sterling signed as controlling owner of the Clippers, gives its board of governors broad latitude in league decisions, including who owns the teams. Article 13 of the constitution says that an owner cannot "fail or refuse to fulfill" contractual obligations to the NBA "in such a way to affect the Association or its members adversely."

In the wake of Sterling's remarks, players have threatened to boycott and a number of sponsors have suspended or ended deals with the Clippers.

The NBA statement charged yesterday: "Mr. Sterling's actions and positions significantly undermine the NBA's efforts to promote diversity and inclusion; damage the NBA's relationship with its fans; harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel; and impair the NBA's relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders."

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