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LOS ANGELES – The NBA took its latest, and strongest, step to remove Donald Sterling as the Los Angeles Clippers’ owner, formally serving notice today of its intention to revoke his ownership of the franchise he has held for 33 years.

If the NBA board of governors approves the charges against Sterling by a three-fourths majority vote, which is expected to happen easily, the Clippers will be sold to new owners.

Sterling, however, could sue the league in court in an attempt to maintain control of the team. He and his wife, Shelly, a co-owner of the Clippers, have said they want to keep the franchise.

As per terms of the NBA constitution, Sterling has until May 27 to respond to the league’s charges, which include his engaging in conduct detrimental to the league and its 30 teams.

Sterling has been under fire since an audio recording surfaced last month in which he was heard disparaging African-Americans while arguing with a female friend. He can appear at a special board of governors meeting June 3 to make a presentation in response to the charges.

In a statement today, the NBA said Sterling “significantly” undermined the league’s effort to promote diversity. The NBA also said he damaged the league’s relationship with fans, harmed NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel, and impaired the league’s relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as government and community leaders.

The NBA also said Sterling issued a “false and misleading press statement” about this matter, another action that provided grounds for termination of ownership as per the league’s constitution.