Friday Forum: Can You Find a Way for the NBA to Boot Sterling?

By William Peacock, Esq. on May 01, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's the topic that won't die: Donald Sterling is a racist.

Of course, those of us who paid attention to the L.A. sports scene have known this for years -- there was the refusal to rent to African Americans, and the time he brought women into the locker room to view his players' "beautiful black bodies," relays Deadspin. His former general manager, NBA legend Elgin Baylor, who admittedly had a bone to pick with him (litigation was ongoing at the time), compared Sterling's management of the team to a plantation, reports Yahoo.

But with Sterling's lifelong suspension, imposed by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver earlier this week, came an interesting question: can the league force him to sell the team?

Obviously, with the NBA and Donald Sterling being private parties (as opposed to the government, which has its own set of powers), any ability to force a sale is going to have to come from a contract: the NBA bylaws. The formerly secret bylaws were released by the league earlier this week, leading to lots of speculation. One lawyer, writing for Fox Sports, argued that the bylaws don't provide such an authority.

We'll toss the question to you, dear audience: do these bylaws support a forced sale? Hint: Article 13 - Termination of Ownership or Membership begins on page 36 of the PDF (page 26 of the document).

Tweet us your best legal theories, in 140 characters or less, to @FindLawLP.

Whatever happens, this battle won't be resolved quickly. Though the NBA has a long queue of interested buyers, Sterling has let it known that he'll file suit to block the sale, under breach of contract or antitrust claims, reports the New York Daily News.

For Sports Law geeks, this is going to be fun to watch.

NBA Bylaws

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