When NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks later today, he will probably issue the maximum available penalty to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling: an indefinite suspension and a fine of either $1 million or $2.5 million, depending on how he interprets the league’s rules.
Going farther and terminating Sterlings ownership—the so-called nuclear option—isn’t likely, even given the universal condemnation and sordid history of Sterling. Stripping an owner of his team requires approval of three-quarters of the league’s owners. That’s an awfully high bar to clear.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is about as forward-thinking as they come, has already expressed hesitance about voting Sterling out. Cuban invokes the “slippery slope” argument: “I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope.”
Cuban is the only owner saying this at the moment, but there’s a good chance at least a quarter of the others are thinking it. Throwing out Sterling would set a precedent for confiscating a valuable asset on the basis of someone having expressing taboo thoughts and opinions. While it’s unlikely that any owner will soon match Sterling for ugly behavior, that’s not a proposition any will want to test.