The rumour mill was in overdrive yesterday, with everyone from boxing greats Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather to Oprah Winfrey to millionaire musician Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs on the list of potential suitors.
On Tuesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned the 80-year-old Sterling from the game for life over what he called “deeply offensive” comments made by the Clippers owner about black people. Silver also called on other owners of NBA teams to force Sterling, a real estate tycoon, to sell.
A three-quarters majority of the remaining 29 owners must agree, and Silver said he expects to have their backing.
Though that process has not yet been fleshed out, that did not keep possible investors from expressing their interest in the team, which Forbes has valued at $575m (€414m).
“Do we want to buy the Clippers? Yes, we do. We are very, very interested in buying the Clippers,” Mayweather, an undefeated welterweight champion, said in Las Vegas, according to ESPN. The 37-year-old said he would want to take on a “solid percentage” of the team, adding: “It’s not just talk.”
De La Hoya, an Olympic and former world champion turned boxing promoter, also threw his hat into the ring.
“The league has made it known that it wants more minorities involved, and as a proud Mexican-American, I will bring a different perspective to the NBA in general, and the Clippers in particular,” said De La Hoya. “I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I know what it takes to run a successful sports entity and nothing would make me happier than to bring an NBA championship home to Southern California sports fans.”
Sterling’s comments — made to his girlfriend and made public by celebrity news website TMZ — sparked a firestorm within the league — in which most of the players are black — and across the United States.
Sterling, who confirmed to the NBA that it was his voice on the recording, told his girlfriend that he did not want her associating with black people or bringing black friends to Clippers games.
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” says Sterling, who is married.
NBA Hall of Famer and former Lakers great Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, whose photo with Sterling’s girlfriend in part prompted the owner’s tirade, is a part-owner of the city’s beloved Dodgers but said he would be interested in expanding his empire.
Billionaire media tycoon David Geffen — who reportedly sought to buy the Clippers in 2010 — also admitted he “would very much like to buy the team” if Sterling is ousted.