NEW YORK (AFP) - The NBA on Monday, May 19, 2014, charged Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling with racist conduct detrimental to the league, setting a June 3 hearing where owners could strip the team from him.
The NBA announced it was seeking to terminate his ownership and that under NBA rules, Sterling has the right to respond to the charge by May 27.
Sterling, who received a life ban and US$2.5 million (S$3.1 million) fine from NBA commissioner Adam Silver for racist remarks made public last month, can attend and make a presentation at the special hearing of the NBA Board of Governors (team owners) that is set for just two days before the start of the NBA Finals.
A vote of 75 per cent of league owners is required to sustain the charge against Sterling and terminate his interest in the Clippers, opening the door for the club to be sold to new owners.
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, the chairman of the governing board, would preside over the meeting.
Sterling admitted to saying that he did not want his girlfriend to bring black people to Clippers games and did not want her to post photos with black people on social media websites.
The 80-year-old real estate tycoon told said he made the remarks as a way of trying to seduce his assistant into having sex. He later apologized for the remarks in an interview with CNN in which he declared he was not a racist.
The NBA, among many others, does not see it that way.
The league asserted in its charges that Sterling's conduct has damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its teams.
In a statement, the league said Sterling disparaged African-Americans and "minorities", directed a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games and criticised African-Americans for not supporting their communities.
"Sterling's actions and positions significantly undermine the NBA's efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, damage the NBA's relationship with its fans, harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel and impair the NBA's relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders."
Sponsors pulled back from the Clippers in the wake of the remarks and even though the Clippers were not ousted until the second round of the NBA playoffs, it was in spite of the controversy swirling around them.
At one stage, players wore their warm-up outfits inside out to avoid showing the team logo.
"Sterling engaged in other misconduct as well, including issuing a false and misleading press statement about this matter," the NBA statement said.
"All of these acts provide grounds for termination under several provisions of the NBA Constitution and related agreements."
Sterling has said that he would look at taking the NBA to court to fight being stripped of the team, which could fetch at least US$600 million if opened to bidders by the league, rather than simply sell the club.