Magic Johnson is purportedly “absolutely interested” in purchasing the Los Angeles Clippers from Donald Sterling. Civil rights activist Al Sharpton is also calling for Donald Sterling’s removal from an ownership position in the Clippers and intends to contact the NBA’s marketing and broadcast partners along with advertisers if it means that it will lead to Commissioner Adam Silver applying some sort of punishment against the owner who is alleged to have made racist remarks in an audio recording first obtained by TMZ.
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Los Angeles Clippers players listen to the national anthem wearing their warmup jerseys inside out to protest alleged racial remarks by team owner Donald Sterling before Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, April 27, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The NBA is currently in the midst of a “full investigation” into the recording to determine the authenticity of the evidence that includes the statement by Sterling to his girlfriend, “Don’t put him [Magic Johnson] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.” Now Johnson, the individual singled out in the recording, is apparently willing to spend the requisite money (with Guggenheim Partners as his financial support) to take the Clippers off of Sterling’s hands, and make his own decision as to whether or not he is allowed into the Staples Center.
At this point, there is no indication that Sterling wants to sell the Clippers. Making a swift decision is not an easy move for the NBA, which is bound to act in accordance with its constitution and bylaws. While Al Sharpton may be correct to demand immediate corrective action, the NBA is in a delicate position wherein it must shield itself from potential litigation should it act too quickly and without just cause. Further, actively pushing Sterling out of his ownership position in the Clippers would be unprecedented and not necessarily within the bounds of the NBA’s constitution. Alternatively, the NBA could indirectly force Sterling to sell by instituting punishments like an indefinite suspension of the owner.
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In March of 2012, Magic Johnson became part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers after he and the aforementioned Guggenheim Partners bid $2 billion for the team. Guggenheim Partners manages over $125 billion, so finding the money to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers should not be an issue. Earlier this year, the group, along with Johnson, also purchased the WNBA’s LA Sparks. If Magic Johnson is the perfect face for the Los Angeles Dodgers, then he may also be the perfect person to preside over the Clippers if Donald Sterling is willing to sell his franchise.
“In the case of the Dodgers, there is a community relations role, a behind-the scenes business role, a real estate component and a media component,” said Phil de Picciotto, founder and president of Octagon Sports and Entertainment to FORBES after the Dodgers were purchased by Magic and Guggenheim. ”If you look at Magic’s business ventures, at whatever level of his participation, he has touched all of these core areas.” Is there a team more desperate for an owner who understands community relations than the Los Angeles Clippers?
Al Sharpton and Magic Johnson agree (along with much of the world) that Donald Sterling should not own the Los Angeles Clippers anymore. What remains to be seen is how the NBA acts once its investigation concludes and whether Donald Sterling is willing to sell his franchise. It appears that Magic Johnson is ready to purchase the club. Al Sharpton would likely support such a move.