Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor’s voice sounded weary Tuesday afternoon as he talked about the last days spent conferring with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and fellow team owners on a decision that bans Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and will attempt to force him to sell the team.
“Not three days that I wish to have again,” he said. “It’s just kind of a sad experience, the situation we’re going through here. But one we need to deal with.”
Taylor has been at the forefront of the league’s internal discussions in his recently re-assumed role as the NBA’s Board of Governors’ chairman. In that role, he was working Tuesday afternoon to put in motion the process where NBA owners will vote to force Sterling to sell his team after the league was rocked last weekend by the release of a privately taped conversation in which Sterling, among other things, tells his girlfriend at the time not to bring black people to his team’s games.
By league bylaws, 75 percent of the 30 NBA owners must vote to do so to force the sale of a franchise Sterling paid $12.5 million in 1981.
“The process in one sense begins today,” Taylor said, adding NBA staff is compiling information the league’s advisory committee and all 30 owners will need before a date is set and they take such a vote. “It has already begun.”
The Wolves released a statement Tuesday from Taylor in which he fully supported “the swift and impactful action taken” by Silver, praised the commissioner’s “leadership and direction” and called Sterling’s comments “reprehensible behavior which caused this action.”
Silver was confident at a New York City news conference Tuesday afternoon that he has the votes to do so.
When asked about it, Taylor said, “I’m not worried about the votes to do so. I think we’re going into some uncharted areas and I think we want to make sure take each step with caution and make sure we’re doing the right thing, knowing there could be some legal challenges where we’re going. I think we have to be very careful. We’re in uncharted ground. We want to move in one sense with some speed but in another sense making sure that we come to a conclusion here.”
Taylor said he had not talked to any of his players to get their feelings on Sterling’s remarks while spending these last days guiding the league’s decision.
“I have not made a point of talking with a lot of people,” Taylor said from his Mankato office. ”I have been gathering information from people who have called me.”
Wolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad wrote “WE ARE ONE!!! #NBA” on Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.
Wolves veteran player Kevin Martin in a text message to the Star Tribune said, “Today we realized that our league is in good hands for a very long time due to Commissioner Silver’s response to these unethical comments by Donald. We look at our league as one big family and today was a step in the right direction to make our family stronger.”
Sterling’s recent comments, made by his then-girlfriend in a secretly taped conversation, are not the first allegations of racism made against him. Former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor claimed Sterling had a “plantation mentality” in a 2009 wrongful-termination lawsuit that was rejected by the jury.
That same year, Sterling settled a three-year-old Department of Justice lawsuit that had brought housing-discrimination charges against him. He settled for a record $2.75 million but avoided admitting liability that he had refused to rent to African-Americans at his Los Angeles apartment complexes.
Taylor was asked that history and if Sterling’s racial views had concerned the league before this last week.
“I heard that, but never with me personally,” Taylor said. “I was never in a conversation or an environment where I personally had seen this or heard this from Don. If it’s happened…the only things I’m aware of is what’s reported in the news. The one (lawsuit) with Elgin Baylor mostly is the one I had read about. I hadn’t personally seen it or been involved with it so I can’t say I have any personal knowledge of that.”
Silver said at his press conference that it matters not if Sterling’s remarks were made in private conversation. He said they’re public now and they represent Sterling’s views.
“It certainly came up as part of the information,” Taylor said. “But it just got outweighed now that it is out in public. How it got out is secondary to what got out…I don’t think there was any other decision to be made but this one.”