NBA commissioner Adam Silver is due to give an update on the investigation of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling at 2 pm Eastern, per NBA.com. But all indications are that Silver's decision on what to do about disgustingly racist remarks allegedly made by Sterling is being made for him.
For starters, although only a few of the other owners--Silver's employers--have spoken out, the ones that have done so have come out with strongly worded statements demanding that Sterling be forced out of the league by all legal means available. Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores probably spoke for his fellow owners when he said, "There is no place for prejudice and intolerance in our league, or anywhere else. That's not a debatable point. It's a first principle." Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander told the Houston Chronicle that while the NBA constitution only allows an owner to be summarily stripped of his franchise for gambling, he does think something needs to be done to ensure "this kind of event never happens again." The only other plausible reason Silver could unilaterally push out an owner is if the team had been noncompetitive for years on end--and that excuse simply doesn't apply to the Clippers. For the last few years, the Clippers have been a classy team with a classless owner.
Additionally, yesterday saw most of the Clippers' sponsors head for the exits--at least for now. This is pretty telling, since at this point it's officially still only "alleged" that Sterling told his girlfriend that he doesn't want blacks at his games. To my non-lawyer's mind, these sponsors must be pretty certain it is indeed Sterling on that tape. Rather than wait for the cover of Silver acting first to avoid possible lawsuits by Sterling, it looks like they're using their economic power to prod Silver into making a decision.
What can Silver do if he can't strip Sterling of the Clippers outright? A lot, according to ESPN's Marc Stein and Ramona Sherburne. Apparently Silver has the equivalent of a "best interests of the game" power similar to those possessed by Bud Selig, Roger Goodell and Gary Bettman that allows him to suspend owners for conduct detrimental to the league. Most NBA insiders think Silver will hand Sterling an indefinite suspension with as much as a $1 million fine, and then apply quiet pressure to get Sterling to sell the team. Alexander has one idea to apply such pressure--make all of the Clippers' players free agents. If that were to happen, Alexander says, Sterling wouldn't be able to attract anyone worth getting, and his only option would be to sell.
Silver has only been commissioner for two months, and to put it mildly this is his first test. But from where I sit, he's being told what decision to make here--get rid of Sterling, and get rid of him as quickly as legally possible.