SBD/May 16, 2014/Franchises

Sterling's Attorney Says Clippers Owner Won't Pay $2.5M Fine, Is Having His Rights Violated

Sterling (r) is well-known for litigious tactics, and the NBA expected Sterling to fight
The lawyer for banned Clippers Owner Donald Sterling in a letter to the NBA wrote that Sterling "won't pay" the $2.5M fine levied against him by the league for his racist remarks, according to a source cited by Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Attorney Maxwell Blecher also wrote that Sterling "doesn't warrant 'any punishment at all' for his racist comments that were recorded in a conversation." Blecher contends that the fine "violates Sterling's due process rights." It "is not a surprise Sterling's attorney threatened a legal battle," as Sterling "is well-known for litigious tactics, and the league had been expecting Sterling to fight." Blecher repped Sterling in '82 when the Clippers "were planning to move" from San Diego to L.A. (USA TODAY, 5/16).

LEGAL STANDING FOR STERLING? SI.com's Michael McCann wrote the letter "makes clear what many have anticipated: Donald Sterling will not go down without a fight and that he is taking active steps toward litigation." Blecher's letter "offers no ambiguity about Sterling's intentions." Blecher "does not explain how he intends to prove Sterling's racist remarks captured on the secret recording -- followed by Sterling's incendiary remarks to Anderson Cooper about Magic Johnson -- do not give rise to unethical conduct or positions adverse to the NBA." A due-process claim "may sound superficially reasonable," but the "problem for Sterling is that the NBA is a private association and is not required to provide due process rights." Any lawsuit by Sterling against the NBA "would face a daunting task, as Sterling contractually agreed to follow the NBA's system of justice." The "real weapon Sterling could obtain through a lawsuit is pretrial discovery." Blecher "is no stranger to expensive and lengthy litigation in sports," as he was a lead attorney for the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in "successful antitrust litigation against the NFL" (SI.com, 5/15). However, FS1 legal analyst Rob Becker said Sterling has a good case against the NBA because "his case is there's nothing in the NBA constitution that allows him to be knocked out for his statements." But Becker said the NBA states Sterling "violated a contractual obligation to the league and that has then hurt their bottomline. ... But he has not violated a contractual obligation. He simply made a statement to his mistress in his house. I do not believe there's any contract that that violates, so he's in a strong position" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 5/16).

BALLMER INTERESTED: Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said of his possible interest in bidding for the Clippers, should the NBA successfully force a sale, "I have nothing definitive to say. Am I right on top of what's going on there? Absolutely I am. I love basketball, and I'd love to participate at some point in the NBA. If the opportunity is outside of Seattle, so be it." He added, "If I get interested in the Clippers, it would be for Los Angeles. ... Moving them anywhere else would be value destructive" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/16).

WILL SPONSORS RETURN? CSNBayArea.com's Andy Dolich said of advertisers returning to the Clippers, "I don't think they're going to wait too long, unless there's a circumstance that there's going to be a lot of finger-pointing and Sterling decides to use his nuclear option and call out every other owner and league management, 'I got some stuff guys.'" Dolich added, "But I don't think that's necessarily going to happen because there's money at play here, the juice that flows through the veins of pro-sports is green and that will solve this" ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," CSN Bay Area, 5/15).

ENOUGH ALREADY: ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen on Thursday both said that they "had tired of the Donald Sterling saga amid news he planned to sue the league." Van Gundy: "I can’t wait for the day when I don’t hear the name Sterling." Breen: "Agreed. He should go by the old Mark Twain phrase. It’s better to remain silent and appear ignorant than open your mouth and remove all doubt" (OKLAHOMAN, 5/16).
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