National Basketball Association super fan Jim Goldstein, a courtside season-ticket holder for the Clippers since the franchise relocated to Los Angeles from San Diego three decades ago, said he disapproves of the team’s public suitors.
“Most of the names that have been appearing in the newspaper are celebrities or billionaires who I’ve never seen at basketball games,” Goldstein said in a telephone interview. “And I don’t like the idea of people doing it for publicity or people doing it just as an investment. I like the owners being knowledgeable basketball fans.”
Ex-music industry executive David Geffen is among the billionaires who have said they’re interested in buying the team that had the third-best record in the NBA this season. Geffen’s bid group includes Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey.
Basketball Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson, who paired with Guggenheim Partners executives Mark Walter and Todd Boehly to buy baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, said he’d also explore a bid. Former Live Nation Entertainment Inc. Chairman Irving Azoff, who has floor seats to the Lakers, said he’s part of a group, too.
Technically, the Clippers aren’t for sale.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on April 29 suspended team owner Donald Sterling for life and moved to remove him from ownership after the real-estate developer was caught on tape asking a female friend not to bring minorities to games or post pictures of herself with them on Instagram.
Sterling deserved the ban, said Goldstein, whom the NBA calls one of its most visible fans.
“With the pressure from the players, which is deserved, pressure from the sponsors, obviously it was something the NBA had to do,” said Goldstein, who is known for his avant garde wardrobe of hats, scarves, leather and snake skin.
Goldstein, who says he spends more than $300,000 a year to feed his hoops habit, shares handshakes and hugs with players, coaches, executives and owners, many of whom give him access to restricted areas like postgame press conferences and practice. Everyone knows him, former NBA Commissioner David Stern has said.
Goldstein said he wished the league had acted sooner against Sterling, a landlord who was repeatedly sued for housing discrimination. When Sterling was accused of forcing blacks and Latinos out of his apartment buildings in 2003, one of his property supervisors testified that Sterling said blacks “smell” and that he wanted to get them and Latinos “out of here.” Sterling settled the case for an undisclosed amount.
When the U.S. Justice Department sued him in 2006 for discriminating against blacks, Hispanics and families with children, he settled for a record $2.7 million.
“They should have done something earlier, not only in regard to Donald’s racial prejudices,” Goldstein said. “But I was always upset by the way he handled dismissed coaches and never wanted to pay them the balance of their contract and always took it to court.”
Silver in his April 29 press conference said the NBA didn’t punish Sterling because his settlement with the Justice Department didn’t include an admission of guilt.
Sterling, 80, whom the New York Post said has prostate cancer, hasn’t said whether he would fight the league’s penalty.
The NBA three days ago said it would appoint a chief executive officer to oversee the Clippers, saying it was the best way to ensure the stability of the franchise.
“I’m not interested in being a minority owner,” Goldstein said. “I’m also not interested in getting in a bidding contest, even if I were a billionaire, which I’m not.”
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