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How NBA owners can force Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers

Adam Silver said he will push to force Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, but what mechanism is in place to allow that to happen? It'll come down to the other 29 owners.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million on Tuesday for his racist remarks to his girlfriend, including his telling her that it "bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people." Effective immediately, Sterling cannot attend NBA games or meetings and he will have no role in controlling the team.

But while the lifetime ban and the $2.5 million fine are the harshest punishments Silver can levy as the commissioner, he also said that he will push for the other owners to force Sterling to sell the team.

How can Silver do that? According to Leigh Steinberg of Forbes, Paragraph 13 of the NBA Constitution gives the owners the authority to force a sale under special circumstances.

Under the terms of Paragraph 13 of the constitution, NBA owners also have the right, by three-fourths vote, to revoke ownership if an owner "fails to fulfill" a "contractual obligation" in "such a way as to affect the [NBA] or its members adversely."

Silver is banking on the Sterling situation qualifying under this bylaw. The punishment handed down by Silver did not take into account past claims of racist behavior by Sterling, but the NBA owners could take that into account when deciding whether to force Sterling to sell the team. Several owners have spoken out against Sterling's remarks, and Silver said that he is confident he will find the 23 votes necessary to force a sale.

"I spoke to several owners, and I have their full support," he said. "I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him."

While Sterling did acknowledge that it was his voice on the recording, Silver said he has "no idea" whether Sterling will fight the NBA in court if he is forced to sell the team. NBA Players Association vice president Roger Mason strongly urged the owners to push for that vote "immediately" in a press conference following Silver's.

Donald Sterling's Stance

If the team is put up for sale, several people have suggested that Magic Johnson — the same person Sterling complained about being at Clippers games — will be part of the new ownership group. While Johnson denied those rumors, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski said that his group is a prime candidate.

For that to happen, though, the other 29 owners must do their part.