State Farm & Virgin Atlantic Cease Sponsorship With Clippers After Alleged Donald Sterling Audio

Following the still-unproven recordings released over the weekend by TMZ where allegedly Clippers owner Donald Sterling makes disparaging remarks about African-Americans, and cautions his then-girlfriend not to bring black people to his games, not to mention the plantation tenor of his tone surrounding African-Americans who work for him, the Clippers have lost two sponsorships deals with State Farm and Virgin Atlantic.

The NBA is still investigating the purported Sterling recordings, but Clippers sponsors are already distancing themselves from his team. State Farm and Virgin Atlantic have issued statements ending their business relationship with the team, pending further action by the league (i.e. they’ll probably come back if Sterling is removed).





We alluded to lost sponsors when reports surfaced Magic Johnson was looking to buy the team, and State Farm and Virgin Atlantic’s decisions to end their partnerships is actually good news, at least in terms of forcing Sterling to sell the team.

Donald is notoriously stubborn and has resisted entreaties by former commissioner David Stern to sell the team. But now, with lost sponsorship dollars, it might be easier for Silver and the owners to force his hand since it’s a matter of incentivizing the continued financial success of the team.

As Michael McCann pointed out for Sports Illustrated yesterday, the only way the other owners can legally force him to sell (without incurring a lawsuit in the process) is if there is a financial stake at play:

Forcibly removing Sterling from the NBA is unlikely to happen. The NBA’s constitution, which is confidential, reportedly contains language permitting owners to authorize the league to sell a team without an owner’s consent. The language, SI.com is told, only covers very limited circumstances and these circumstances concern team finances — namely, when an owner can’t pay his bills.

There is reportedly no language authorizing the NBA to sell a team because of an owner’s hurtful remarks or embarrassing behavior. Even if constitutional language could be construed to authorize a forced sale of the Clippers, NBA owners would likely be reluctant to do so given the precedent it would set.

But with sponsorships dwindling and with more likely to pull their deals in the ensuing days — depending on the NBA’s findings — there could be a case made that Sterling, while technically solvent, can’t handle the adverse financial strain his alleged statements will unfurl.

State Farm also has a business relationship with Chris Paul, as part of their popular Cliff Paul series of spots. They will continue in that relationship despite Paul’s spot as the starting point guard of the Clippers and head of the NBPA.




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