SBD/June 11, 2014/Franchises

Silver Worried That Prolonged Litigation Could Delay Ballmer Taking Over Clippers



Ballmer reportedly has an escape clause in his agreement to buy the Clippers
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver this morning said his biggest concern regarding the Clippers ownership situation is that the league is "going to get stuck in a quagmire of sorts in litigation" filed by Donald Sterling, which could "delay Steve Ballmer taking over" the team. Appearing on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike," Silver said, "The team is a little bit in limbo right now. ... They’re going into a draft, they’re going into free agency. Guys want to know where they stand, so we’d like everything to just be clear so everybody understands how this team is moving forward.” He noted the league will continue the transfer of the franchise to Ballmer as long as Rochelle Sterling "can pass clear title" to Ballmer. Silver: "He’ll go through the usual vetting, but I don’t anticipate any problems from our side so it’s really just waiting on them. It will happen, and I think Donald ultimately knows that. He can jam up the works a little bit right now, but it’s time for him to move on” ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 6/11). TMZ reported there is an "escape clause" in Ballmer's agreement that gives him the "right to nix the deal" if Rochelle Sterling does not have "clear authority to sell the team" (, 6/10). In L.A., Rainey & Bresnahan reports Rochelle today planned to go to court in L.A. to "ask a judge to expedite a hearing validating her takeover of a family trust -- an action she used to clear the way for her sale" to Ballmer (L.A. TIMES, 6/11).

STERLING BLASTS NBA IN STATEMENT: Donald Sterling yesterday released a statement through his attorney, stating that stated that he is "fighting for the fundamental rights of Americans against the NBA." The statement calls the league a "band of hypocrites and bullies" and "despicable monsters." His statement is titled in caps and underlined: "WHY AM I FIGHTING THE NBA? THE NBA WANTS TO TAKE AWAY OUR PRIVACY RIGHTS AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH" (AP, 6/11). Silver during halftime of Spurs-Heat Game 3 last night responded to the statement by saying, "I have no idea what he's talking about. The focus, obviously, shouldn't be on me or the NBA. This is about Donald Sterling and his conduct and if he wants to litigate, he'll litigate" ("Spurs-Heat Game 3," ABC, 6/10).
IS LIFETIME BAN, FINE WORTH THE FUSS? USA TODAY’s Jeff Zillgitt writes the drama surrounding the Clippers is “careening into the sideshow the NBA wanted to avoid and for the most part, thought it had avoided.” What is “most important to the NBA” is that the Sterlings “sell the Clippers, not the lifetime ban or the fine.” The latter two “ultimately are inconsequential to the NBA but important to [Donald] Sterling on a matter of principle.” Silver and the league's attorneys “won't do anything to jeopardize their case against Sterling.” But if Sterling ever “agrees to drop lawsuits and sign the required paperwork that would put the NBA in the clear, maybe the fine and ban will be forgotten” (USA TODAY, 6/11). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "The league has to ask itself, 'What is the goal here?' Is the goal to get Donald Sterling out of a position of ownership with dispatch, which they appear to have done to this point, or is the goal to ban him from every arena in the league so he can't even buy a ticket?" Kornheiser added, "This was done so well to this point, what you risk is taking a giant step backwards, tying yourself up in court for months, maybe years ... losing the momentum that you had." ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the lifetime ban was "important at the time, and events have overtaken it, the event being the sale of the team" ("PTI," ESPN, 6/10).
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