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The NBA not only is relying on its constitution and bylaws to force Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling to sell the team but also plans to rely on moral and ethical contracts with the league Sterling has signed over the years, a person familiar with the deal told USA TODAY Sports.
The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the highly sensitive situation.
Language in those contracts prevent Sterling from expressing views or taking actions that are detrimental to the league, the person said.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million and said he would force Sterling to sell the team after Sterling made racially insensitive comments on an audio recording of a private conversation that went public.
The league is moving cautiously in its effort to remove Sterling. The NBA's finance advisory committee, which is made up of owners and is taking the lead in the case against Sterling, met via teleconference Wednesday. The committee will meet again next week, NBA executive vice president of communications Mike Bass said.
The NBA's constitution addresses ownership termination in Article 13, and Article 13(d) states an owner can be terminated if the person fails or refuses "to fulfill its contractual obligations to the Association, its Members, Players, or any other third party in such a way as to affect the Association or its Members adversely."
The league must formally charge Sterling with violating the NBA's constitution, and once he receives the charges in writing, he has five days to respond.
After Sterling responds, the board of governors will hold a special meeting within 10 days of that response and vote on terminating Sterling's ownership. It requires three-fourths of the vote to terminate his ownership and force him to sell.