The NBA may be able to find new owners for the Los Angeles Clippers without a protracted legal battle with the current ones. Banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling has agreed to allow his wife, Shelly Sterling, to negotiate the sale of the team, according to TMZ and ESPN.
Citing unnamed sources, TMZ first reported on Friday that Sterling surrendered control of the organization to his wife and that she intends to negotiate with the NBA for a forced sale of the team "on her terms." The Associated Press subsequently reported that the agreement between the estranged spouses was reached following weeks of discussion, citing an unnamed person with the knowledge of the discussions.
The longtime owner of the Clippers, Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA and hit with a $2.5 million fine over racist remarks heard in audio recordings that were made public in April by TMZ and Deadspin. When announcing the historic sanctions, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver indicated that he would urge the league's other franchise owners to force a sale of the Clippers.
Citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the situation, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported on Friday that Mrs. Sterling and her legal team have been negotiating with the NBA since the ban and fine were levied.
The NBA began the formal process of ousting Donald Sterling by officially charging him on Monday with damaging the league and its teams with his racist comments. In the recorded conversations that earned him exile from the NBA, he could be heard telling a woman, V. Stiviano, not to bring black friends to Clippers games or to post photos of herself with black people, including NBA legend Magic Johnson, on her Instagram account.
"All of these acts provide grounds for termination under several provisions of the NBA constitution and related agreements," the league said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press.
The official charge set up a June 3 hearing and a sale would be forced if three-fourths of the league's other team owners vote for it.
Media reports on Friday that Mr. Sterling is willing to cede control of the organization and Mrs. Sterling has been negotiating with the NBA come after previous indications that both were prepared to fight the NBA in order to keep the Clippers. Donald Sterling hired antitrust lawyer Max Blecher Sterling and informed the NBA that he would not pay the $2.5 million fine, reported Sports Illustrated earlier in May. Striking a similarly defiant note, Shelly Sterling's lawyer told The Associated Press earlier this month that his client would fight to retain her ownership stake in the organization.
"She will not agree to a forced or involuntary seizure of her interest," Attorney Pierce O'Donnell said. "As her lawyers we will fight vigorously to defend her property rights."