Americans divide essentially evenly on whether Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling should have been forced to sell his team after being recorded making racist comments in a private conversation – possibly a moot question, but a contentious one nonetheless.
Forty-five percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say the National Basketball Association was right to seek to force Sterling to sell the team. But, possibly reflecting sensitivity to property and/or privacy rights, 48 percent say otherwise.
As noted, the question may have been bypassed by events. Claiming authority as trustee of the family trust that owns the team, Sterling’s estranged wife has agreed to sell the Clippers for $2 billion to a group led by former Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer. Sterling sued the NBA last week, but his position on the sale arranged by his wife is unclear.
The poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds support for an NBA-forced sale highest, perhaps not surprisingly given his recorded comments, among nonwhites – 61 percent (including 69 percent of blacks) favor the move, vs. 36 percent of whites.
Half of people living in the West, the Clippers’ home region, support ousting Sterling, vs. 43 percent in the rest of the country. And there’s a difference by age: Forty-nine percent of those younger than 50 support forcing Sterling to sell, compared with 40 percent of their elders.
There also are splits among partisan and ideological groups. Support for a forced sale ranges from 59 percent of Democrats to 42 percent of independents and 32 percent of Republicans, and, similarly, from 58 of liberals to 46 of moderates and 35 percent of conservatives.
An NBA vote set for today was canceled after Sterling’s wife, Shelly, announced the sale.