Disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has refused the sanctions ordered by the National Basketball Association and has threatened litigation, reports Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann. The NBA slapped Sterling with a lifetime ban from the game, ordered a $2.5 million fine and the sale of the team in response to a series of racist and inflammatory remarks that were recorded.
Sterling has hired prominent antitrust litigator Maxwell Blecher, who has written a letter to NBA executive vice president and general counsel Rick Buchanan threatening to sue the NBA. The letter, sources tell SI.com, claims that Sterling has done nothing wrong and that "no punishment is warranted" for Sterling. Blecher also tells Buchanan that Sterling will not pay the $2.5 million fine, which is already past due. Blecher ends the letter by saying this controversy "will be adjudicated." ...
Any lawsuit by Sterling against the NBA would face a daunting task, as Sterling contractually agreed to follow the NBA's system of justice. Sterling's failure to pay the fine is additional evidence of his insubordination of league policies. His failure triggers other contractual provisions that can be used by the NBA under Article 13(d) to justify his ouster. It is also possible the NBA could deduct $2.5 million, plus interest, from proceeds the NBA would share with the Sterlings after the league sells the Clippers.
The NBA is well-poised to argue that Sterling's pending ouster is mainly due to the impact of his conduct -- which nearly triggered a player boycott, caused sponsors to drop the Clippers and led to critical words from President Obama -- rather than the conduct itself.
TMZ released audio recording last month of a conversation between Sterling and former girlfriend V. Stiviano. Sterling can be heard criticizing Stiviano for bringing Black people to Clippers games and for uploading photos to Instagram and herself and African-Americans—including Los Angeles Lakers legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson. In an interview earlier this week with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Sterling harshly criticized Johnson for HIV positive serostatus. "He's not a role model," said Sterling. "He should be ashamed of himself."
Meanwhile: Sterling's estranged wife Rochelle Sterling has also indicated that she will sue to retain her 50 percent share in the team. She has also distanced herself from her husband's remarks and claimed that she "is not a racist." Court documents say otherwise. The Los Angeles Times has reported that Shelly Sterling "was accused of using racist language by multiple people during depositions conducted in 2009 as part of a housing discrimination lawsuit."
The apple doesn't fall from the tree, right?
In other news: Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder ended the Clippers' playoff run this week. The Thunder advanced to the Western Conference finals with its 104-98 victory over the Clippers in Game 6 on Thursday night. The series against the Spurs begins Monday night in San Antonio.