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Donald Sterling reportedly says Los Angeles Clippers not for sale, so what’s next?

Apr 29, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT

NBA commissioner Adam Silver acted decisively – banning Donald Sterling for life, fining him $2.5 million and setting in motion a process that would force Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers if 3/4 of NBA owners vote in favor.

Silver would not have taken that last measure without absolute certainty he has the votes, and he’s not hiding confidence I what will happen next.

“I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him,” Silver said.

And how will Sterling take it?

“I have no idea,” Silver said.

Sterling is the huge wildcard here.

He could go silently into the night, accepting his billion dollars and fading from the spotlight. Or he could file a lawsuit and fight Silver’s punishment.

Sterling, in an off-camera interview with Fox News’ Jim Gray, indicated the latter is more likely. According to Gray, Sterling said the Clippers are not and would not be for sale.

I don’t see how this ends cleanly if Sterling pursues legal action.

The NBA constitution is not publicly available, but we’ve learned a little about it through published reports. How to interpret the document remains difficult, potentially even for those with access to it.

Before Silver announced his ruling, Tulane Sports Law Program Director Gabe Feldman explained the league’s constitution thusly:

If Sterling sues the NBA, the court could agree with Feldman and say some of the penalties – the extra $1.5 million in fines and having to sell the team – exceed Silver’s bounds. The NBA constitution is not a legal document, but parties can sue on the basis the league did not follow its own rules.

And then, if it gets that far, there’s the matter of the team being sold. Who runs the sale if Sterling is banished? Again, it’s not clear whether the NBA constitution spells this out, but Zach Lowe of Grantland reports how the league would plan to proceed:

Sterling would obviously have complete interest in selling the team for as much money as possible. The NBA would have a theoretical fiduciary duty to do the same, but considering Sterling would get the money, it might not be as urgent to the league as would be to him. Once more, that could be grounds for Sterling to sue, depending on the full text of the NBA constitution.

However, Lester Munson of ESPN also reported:

When Silver issues his punishment to Sterling, the decision is final. The constitution provides in Paragraph 24(m) that a commissioner’s decision shall be “final, binding, and conclusive” and shall be as final as an award of arbitration. It is almost impossible to find a judge in the United States judicial system who would set aside an award of arbitration.When Silver issues his punishment to Sterling, the decision is final. The constitution provides in Paragraph 24(m) that a commissioner’s decision shall be “final, binding, and conclusive” and shall be as final as an award of arbitration. It is almost impossible to find a judge in the United States judicial system who would set aside an award of arbitration.

That doesn’t mean Sterling can’t sue. It would just make it more difficult, though not impossible, for him to win.

If Sterling sues, he could seek a stay to remain in power and/or damages. There’s no limit on the complexity or direction a potential lawsuit would take.

It would be up to the courts to determine the merits of Sterling’s claims.

  1. bougin89 - Apr 29, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    So if they get the 3/4 vote. Silver and the Board of Governors would be the standing Clippers owner.

    Lets say they don’t get the 3/4 vote(I find that extremely unlikely). Who would be the standing owner of the Clippers going forward? There has to be someone with final say in the organization. Does Sterling get to elect the “CEO” persay even though he’s not suppose to have any involvement in basketball decisions?

    • spursareold - Apr 29, 2014 at 4:53 PM

      Sterling owns the team until it’s sold, he just can’t have any access to it. The league will manage the sale, and Sterling gets the money. The league never owns the team. The league never manages the team, the front office will.

      • bougin89 - Apr 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM

        I get all that. It’s clearly a very different situation than the New Orleans Hornets because the NBA doesn’t own it.

        Lets say the team doesn’t get sold, someone has to have final say of the franchise. Does Sterling get to pick the ‘CEO’?

        I mean what you’re basically saying is Doc Rivers can resign himself to a lifetime contract. The current GM/President has full run and authority “forever”? That makes no sense.

      • mackcarrington - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:03 PM

        That makes no sense because that’s not realistically what’s going to happen. Eventually someone will run the team. It may even be the “wife”.

      • smoothaswilkes - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:13 PM

        @spursareold how’d that work out for the Lakers when the league owned New Orleans. Stern stepped in for “basketball reasons”.

    • zerole00 - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      lol this’ll be the second team CP’s on that’s owned by the NBA.

      • 00maltliquor - Apr 30, 2014 at 1:53 AM

        Owner killer! j/k j/k!

    • chiadam - Apr 29, 2014 at 7:32 PM

      Well, Silver already knows he has the votes. You can believe that. It’s not like other owners are as outraged as they claim to be (they’re not..they know and have known who Sterling is), but sponsors are fleeing already. Keeping him around as an owner now hurts the bottom line.

      • bougin89 - Apr 30, 2014 at 9:18 AM

        I know that. I’m just wondering who is actually in charge. Someone has to have final say in the organization. Apparently it can’t be Sterling with his lifetime ban. During the sale is Silver the acting owner until it’s sold? Does Silver annoint a ‘CEO’.

  2. daviddmsvcp - Apr 29, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    The punishment does not seem, to me, to fit the action. It certainly does fit the response to the action, so right now, everyone loves Adam Silver.

    I hope Donald Sterling fights this, and wins. He has been treated unfairly.

    And I hope the Clippers lose.

    • antistratfordian - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      Unbelievable. Is Stormfront down today? You didn’t know where else to spew your garbage?

      • knickshater - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:27 PM

        @Anti – nah Stormfront is still up. However, stories like these always brings them out from their holes.

      • daviddmsvcp - Apr 29, 2014 at 10:33 PM

        My, my, aren’t we feeling superior today?

    • ranfan12 - Apr 29, 2014 at 7:20 PM

      A billionaire, fighting against a billion dollar franchise, full of billionaire owners who will likely want him out. His odds are slim.

    • anotheryx - Apr 30, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      He was not persecuted by court. He was in a private business, and he was bad for the business, so he is no longer in the business, and all of it is non of your business.

  3. imnotyourbuddyguy - Apr 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    Sterling is done, he can fight it all he wants as the league moves on without him.
    Word is Sterling has the 3/4 easily

  4. azarkhan - Apr 29, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    “The NBA constitution is not publicly available”

    That’s weird. Are other leagues like that?

    • asimonetti88 - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:34 PM

      Not sure why it’s weird. It’s a legal document between the owners, there’s no reason for it to need to be public.

  5. captainwisdom8888 - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    The silver spoon truly does make monsters out of some people. This false sense of entitlement that the super-rich can do and say what ever they like without consequences permeates throughout the entire historical landscape of our planet, and those false notions haven’t gone anywhere.

    I bet Stirling NEVER could have imagined that this type of backlash would arise from him speaking in the privacy of his own home.

    • ranfan12 - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      TMZ is a rich person’s nghtmare lol

    • asimonetti88 - Apr 29, 2014 at 6:58 PM

      “The silver spoon truly does make monsters out of some people”

      I’ll give Sterling this. He did build his fortune himself. He’s still a twit though.

  6. shuttaman1990 - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    Good sterling you idiot. Fight so the NBA can let the clipper players become free agents. CP3 to the Lakers? Why yes i like. Lakers all day the payback for basketball reasons is nigh

    • bougin89 - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:16 PM

      Chris Paul has already been tweeting he’ll sign with the Bucks if his mutiny ends with him being a free agent. Sorry.

      Bucks all day!

    • TheMorningStar - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:46 PM

      Typical Laker fan…thinks EVERYTHING revolves around the Lakers.

      Give it a rest.

      • kb2408 - Apr 29, 2014 at 6:57 PM

        Well, doesn’t it?

      • therealhtj - Apr 29, 2014 at 9:02 PM

        The Lakers were wronged and will not be made whole. Gifting the best PG in the NBA to that moron didn’t change who he was – it probably made him worse.

        Had Stern not concocted Basketball Reasons, the Clippers would’ve been on their annual vacations this time of year. Could the Gold Digger still have put him on blast like that? Of course, but there’s no telling how this would’ve played out. Remember, when his last transgressions came to light, the Clippers were terrible and no one paid Sterling much attention.

      • TheMorningStar - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:54 PM

        How were the Lakers ‘wronged’?? The other league owners (who collectively owned the Hornets at the time) rightly told Stern, their employee, that the wouldn’t ok the deal.

        Sorry, LA was ‘gifted’ Pal Gasol; the other owners were outraged and when given the chance wouldn’t let that happen again.

      • shuttaman1990 - Apr 30, 2014 at 11:57 PM

        It does ya damn peon.
        lakers all day.

  7. Wammy Giveaway - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    Look at the above in Gabe Feldmen’s tweets:

    Removal of Sterling as owner limited to other, more extreme circumstances, including game fixing/betting and financial problems

    Adam Silver has a chance at removing Sterling. He can make the claim that Sterling’s views of the Clipper players and employees as a farm franchise allows him to purposely fix games against his own team. Let’s take for example the 1995-96 season where the Chicago Bulls had a 72-10 record. Two of the losses came at the expense of the Clippers, even though they were a western conference team. Every team was able to beat the Clippers easily as long as Sterling owned the team because he never cared about competition. That’s grounds for game fixing.

    • jziii - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:11 PM

      Um. Okay.

    • bougin89 - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:21 PM

      I seriously want the 7ish seconds back it took to read that.

    • TheMorningStar - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:48 PM

      You’re a fool if you really believe what you just wrote.

  8. antistratfordian - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    Of course. Racists are typically obstinate.

    • kb2408 - Apr 29, 2014 at 7:01 PM

      And astonishingly ignorant.

    • money2long - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:35 AM

      Is pharell basically white to you ?

  9. beermakers - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    Sterling’s opinion is something of the lines of

    “What is the league going to do? Send the NBAPolice to come get me.?”

  10. Bryce - Apr 29, 2014 at 5:59 PM

    Stirling is going to sue the NBA and I bet you he will win.

    • money2long - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:36 AM

      I’m actually afraid of that and I feel most people are afraid to admit they feel the same. This slimeball was a lawyer and he knows some tricks.

  11. haaaaasoooooo - Apr 29, 2014 at 6:33 PM

    Warm up the Supreme Court. This is going to the top!

  12. haaaaasoooooo - Apr 29, 2014 at 6:33 PM

    Warm up the Supreme Court. This is going to the top!

  13. tcclark - Apr 29, 2014 at 6:45 PM

    I dont understand why he’d pay the 2.5 million. what’re they going to do ban him?

  14. Tim's Neighbor - Apr 29, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    For a legally binding arbitration decision to be over turned, the award would have to be considered arbitrary and capricious. I can’t say any part of the punishment is remotely either of those two things.

  15. haaaaasoooooo - Apr 29, 2014 at 7:00 PM

    So if he doesn’t pay the fine in 30 days, that is grounds for removal by the league. True or false?

  16. campcouch - Apr 29, 2014 at 8:09 PM

    solves the problem for the millionaire players and billionaire owners,but doesn’t do squat for the average joes that are affected by his other business ventures. a chance for education on both sides and reconciliation was squandered.

  17. johnheisman - Apr 29, 2014 at 8:14 PM

    I think most important point overlooked by Commissioner Silver and not addresed by all of the media experts is if Silver’s girlfriend will still get a good seat to the games.

  18. albundyrocks - Apr 29, 2014 at 8:37 PM

    He should be able to say whatever he wants to that skank girlfriend of his

  19. Dogsweat - Apr 29, 2014 at 8:56 PM

    Griffin and Paul will look good in Laker Purple and Gold.

    Lakers should scout Doc as well!

  20. 1historian - Apr 29, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    Are they going to ban him from his own building? Were I in his shoes I would drag the NBA into court for decades – he can afford it and he knows that this all about money and he has plenty of it.

    • sw19womble - Apr 29, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      It won’t be decades. He’ll be dead in a few years either way.

    • money2long - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:43 AM

      Is it his building ? Or city property

  21. greenandgoldgirl - Apr 29, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    I believe I heard that the NBA can revoke the Clippers franchise. Does anyone know if that’s true?
    That would mean Sterling would end up with no team, no money and the NBA could give the franchise to someone else, maybe Seattle? Just wondering.

  22. trollhammer20 - Apr 29, 2014 at 10:24 PM

    I don’t get what Sterling’s end game would be here if he decides to fight this.

    What is to gain? He gets to keep the team? A team that no one will cheer for, no one will want to play for, and no one will want to coach as long as he is still the owner?

    He is already a villain, and by fighting, only makes himself into a bigger villain, doing further damage to both his name and the NBA as a whole.

    This is over. His situation is untenable. Even if he “wins”, he’s the biggest loser in US professional sports, and that will not change.

    • mackcarrington - Apr 29, 2014 at 10:41 PM

      Yeah, and even if he kept the team, he couldn’t attend games or even set foot in his own facilities.
      Can you imagine that fool sitting at court side at Staples after all of this?

  23. rainmaker1982 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:23 PM

    If Sterling fights this, he’ll win. The question is, will he?

    He can turn this around on his “girlfriend” and she can go to jail as it’s illegal to record a phone conversation without both parties consenting.

    But of course, the media is too afraid to talk about this because it will look like they’re defending Sterling’s actions.

    What he said was in private. Sorry, but the NBA does not have grounds to force the sale of a team because the owner said racist remarks in private.

    And no, I don’t agree with Sterlings views.

    As the new Commissioner, Silver got caught in the hype and needed to look good as players were threatening to boycott.

    • showtimefolks007 - Apr 30, 2014 at 10:59 AM

      this will get ugly, sterling has been in a court room for most of his life so he knows what he is gonna do. He knows the law and will know how to defend himself

      lifetime ban will not stand, his views have been the same for last 25 years so what’s different all of the sudden, all these players and coaches knew he was like that before they signed their contracts

      they can not force a sale and worst case he gives it to his wife yet still run it behind the scenes

  24. money2long - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:41 AM

    What were you trying to do to the poor guy for him to say NO a thousand times ?

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