NBA owners took their first concrete step Thursday towards booting Donald Sterling from their ranks after the disgraced real estate tycoon's racist remarks.
The league's advisory/finance committee held a meeting about the 80-year-old Los Angeles Clippers' owner to discuss NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's recommendation that he be forced to sell the team he snapped up for $12 million in 1981. It is now worth at least $575 million.
On Tuesday, Silver banned Sterling for life from all league activities and fined him $2.5 million over racially charged comments he made to his girlfriend that caused a furor within basketball and beyond after they were aired at the weekend.
"This afternoon the Advisory/Finance Committee met via conference call to discuss the process for termination of Donald T. Sterling's ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers," NBA executive vice president Mike Bass said in a brief statement.
"The committee unanimously agreed to move forward as expeditiously as possible and will reconvene next week."
A move to force Sterling to sell would require the approval of three-quarters of the other 29 NBA owners, and Silver said Tuesday he was confident of gaining the needed votes.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James issued a note of caution.
"I've seen some owners say they're in favor of the decision Adam Silver made, but it's not all of them," he said.
"You still need three-fourths of them and I've only seen three or four of them comment. We need more than three or four."
A swarm of high-profile potential suitors has already surfaced as potential new owners, although Sterling could tie things up if he chooses to challenge any NBA action in court.
Under NBA rules, before the league can force him to sell Sterling must be presented with written charges and given time to respond.
Silver would then convene the board of governors, which would vote after hearing evidence in the case.
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who chairs the advisory/finance committee, said Wednesday that he expected the process to take some time, noting in remarks to the Pioneer Press that the normal sale of a club "takes some months."
- 'Not going anywhere' -
Clippers coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers has told his players to expect the affair to follow them no matter how far they go in the playoffs.
The team has a chance to wrap up a first-round victory over the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, California, on Thursday night after an emotional game-five victory in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
"It's not going anywhere. And you've just got to embrace that," Rivers said. "That's just part of this year's playoffs for us.
"We don't have a manuscript or a rule book on how to deal with each issue that's going to come up. There will be more issues that we don't know about."
Sterling, who confirmed to the NBA that it was his voice on the leaked recording, was heard telling his girlfriend that he did not want her associating with black people or bringing black friends to Clippers games.
Even US President Barack Obama commented on the damaging affair, and NBA players have been adamant that the league must press forward to remove Sterling from his ownership role.