SBD/June 5, 2014/Franchises

Donald Sterling Unexpectedly Gives Up Fight Against NBA, Accepts Clippers Sale

Sterling's unexpected concession brings an end to his more than three-decade tenure
Clippers Owner Donald Sterling yesterday agreed to "give up his fight to keep the team" and accepted the record $2B sale arranged by his wife, Rochelle, to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, according to Rainey & Turner of the L.A. TIMES. Sterling "pledged to drop" his $1B antitrust lawsuit against the NBA and allow Ballmer to "proceed with his purchase." The "unexpected concession brings an apparent end to a more than three-decade tenure during which Sterling routinely perplexed fans and players and occasionally provoked critics to label him the worst owner in professional sports." Sterling's attorney, Max Blecher, said that the league "agreed it would give up the administrative charges it had leveled" against Sterling in an attempt to "get other owners to strip" both Sterling and his wife of control of the Clippers. The NBA was "expected to leave its lifetime ban" and $2.5M fine against Sterling in place. The league's other 29 owners "must still approve the sale to Ballmer," who was "scheduled to meet" with Clippers employees today (L.A. TIMES, 6/4). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes Sterling’s "turnabout appeared to have brought to a quick conclusion an objectionable episode in league history that was distracting the public’s attention from the playoffs." Blecher said of the sale, "He will sign off. Only he knows why" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/5). Blecher: "I don't know why he made the decision. I just do what I'm told" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/5). In L.A., Dakota Smith in a front-page piece notes Sterling's "change of heart comes just days after" he filed the $1B suit against the league. The move is "unusual" for Sterling, who has a "lengthy history of court battles" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/5). In California, Dan Woike writes Sterling is "going away, and he's doing it quietly" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 6/5). USA TODAY'S Brent Schrotenboer: Sterling has "called off the fight" (USA TODAY, 6/5).

DOTTING I'S, CROSSING T'S: ESPN.com noted the league "has set no timetable for an vote to approve Ballmer, but he is expected to be easily accepted by three-fourths of the other 29 owners" (ESPN.com, 6/5). SI.com's Michael McCann noted Donald and Rochelle Sterling "through a family trust" will split the $2B from the sale of the Clippers. Approximately $662M "will be paid to the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board in capital gains taxes." McCann wrote the NBA "outmaneuvered Donald Sterling at every step, making it virtually impossible for him to wage an effective legal fight." The league also caught "a break with a cooperative and astute" Rochelle Sterling. Commissioner Adam Silver's "newfound power will help him with other issues" (SI.com, 6/4). Meanwhile, the AP's Karen Matthews reported Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders yesterday "pressed for greater diversity in NBA front offices" in a meeting with Silver "amid discussions about racial issues" raised by Sterling's ouster. A group including Sharpton, National Urban League President Marc Morial and incoming NAACP President Cornell Brooks "met with Silver for more than an hour" at the league's N.Y. offices (AP, 6/4).
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