SBD/June 10, 2014/Franchises

Donald Sterling Reverses Course, Announcing He Still Plans To Sue NBA To Keep Clips

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Sterling's attorneys would not disclose the impetus for his change of heart
Banned Clippers Owner Donald Sterling "plans to still sue the NBA," despite announcing last week that he would agree to give up his fight to keep the team and accept the $2B sale arranged by his wife, according to Bresnahan & Rainey of the L.A. TIMES. Sterling in a statement through his attorney said, "The action taken by (NBA Commissioner) Adam Silver and the NBA constitutes a violation of my rights and fly in the face of the freedoms that are afforded to all Americans. I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights. While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled." Bresnahan & Rainey note while Sterling "may be ready to continue to press his case against the NBA," his wife, Rochelle Sterling, also can "go to court in an attempt to clarify her right to control the team and its sale" (L.A. TIMES, 6/10). ESPN L.A.'s Ramona Shelburne noted Sterling's attorneys Max Blecher and Bobby Samini yesterday declined to comment on "whether the NBA's refusal to drop Sterling's lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine is the impetus for his change of heart." NBA Exec VP/Communications Mike Bass said, "There was never a discussion involving the NBA in which we would modify Mr. Sterling's penalty in any way whatsoever. Any suggestion otherwise is complete fabrication." Silver in a CNN interview taped Sunday and released yesterday said the league will be able to "take a deep breath" when the sale is complete. Silver: "He's unsold his club several times over the years. There's well-noted incidents in the league when he was right there at a closing and at the last minute decided not to sell. And until he signs that document, we still have a pending litigation with him" (ESPNLA.com, 6/9). 

PLAN B: In N.Y., Scott Cacciola notes in a front-page piece when Rochelle Sterling and Steve Ballmer on May 29 "agreed in principle to the deal," Rochelle and her advisers gathered in a conference room with Donald Sterling "on speakerphone." He told the room that he "refused to sell -- at any price -- and vowed to fight the NBA." He then "hung up." Pierce O'Donnell, Rochelle's lawyer, then reportedly said to the room of lawyers, investment bankers and financial advisers, "Time to go to Plan B." Cacciola notes it was a "reference to a provision in the trust that controlled the Clippers that stipulated that if Mr. or Mrs. Sterling was found to have a cognitive impairment, the other had a fiduciary responsibility to become sole trustee." That "legal maneuver, so closely held that some of Mrs. Sterling’s advisers were unaware it existed, capped a hectic, weekslong effort to wrest control of the team from Mr. Sterling." Sources said that on May 13, the day after Rochelle "watched her husband give a rambling interview" to CNN's Anderson Cooper, she called Donald and "urged him to undergo neurological testing." She reportedly "told friends that she was motivated by concern for her husband." Donald "agreed to an appointment for that Friday, May 16, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center." Sources said that O'Donnell was "well aware of the legal ramifications of the hospital visit" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/10).
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