SBD/June 2, 2014/Franchises

Donald Sterling Mulling Next Move, As Experts Call $1B Suit Against NBA "Baseless"

Sterling alleges his constitutional rights were violated by the NBA
The attorney for banned Clippers Owner Donald Sterling said that his client is considering his legal options amid the team's pending sale to Steve Ballmer, but as of yesterday, "nothing had been finalized," according to Don Woike of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. Sterling attorney Max Blecher in an e-mail wrote, "We’re considering all of our options but have made no final decisions." Woike noted one of those options "could be to drop their billion-dollar lawsuit against the NBA after the league agreed to a deal" with Rochelle Sterling. In accepting the sale of the team to Ballmer, Rochelle Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust "agreed to indemnify the league in any lawsuit brought by Donald Sterling." Blecher and Sterling "could decide to try to fight the legitimacy of the indemnity clause, which could lead to another lawsuit" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 6/1). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski cited a source involved in the Clippers sales process as saying Donald Sterling "is totally boxed in," without any remaining legal avenue to prevent Ballmer from taking ownership. Blecher said that the purpose of Donald Sterling's $1B lawsuit against the NBA "is to seek damages for Sterling's lifetime ban and termination of ownership." The lawsuit alleges that Donald Sterling's constitutional rights "were violated from using information from an 'illegal' recording" (, 5/30).

I'LL SUE YA: NBA Exec VP & General Counsel Rick Buchanan said, "Mr. Sterling's lawsuit is predictable, but entirely baseless." In L.A., Fenno, Bresnahan & Ryan noted the NBA's position "is the sale was not forced so Sterling's antitrust claims have no merit." But Buchanan said Sterling is "complaining about a set of facts that don't exist." Sterling's lawsuit "makes reference to Ballmer's bid but doesn't indicate the sale was made under duress, and that could have tax consequences." The federal tax code states that people who "sell property 'compulsorily or involuntarily' can be exempt from capital gains tax if they use the profits to replace what they were forced to sell" (L.A. TIMES, 5/31).'s Lester Munson wrote Sterling's lawsuit "will be dismissed as soon as the NBA is able to file the necessary papers." However, Sterling "faces the prospect of paying the NBA's attorneys' fees and expenses in obtaining the dismissal." Munson wrote there is nothing that Sterling can do to stop the sale because NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his lawyers "have performed at the highest level, anticipating every move that Sterling could make." They "have used the powers of the NBA constitution in ways they have never been used before, but they have done so with precision." Sterling "may have a legal claim against his wife, Shelly, but he would be well advised to calm down and accept his fate" (, 5/30).

TAKE MY WIFE, PLEASE! In L.A., Dakota Smith reported Rochelle Sterling's deal with Ballmer "contains an arrangement for her to stay involved with the team." A source said that she "pulled off a way to stay 'involved with the franchise.'" The source "declined to elaborate, but said the role would extend past simply attending games" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/31).
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