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Report: Donald Sterling shopping for law firm to help him sue NBA

May 5, 2014, 7:56 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers

Donald Sterling uses the courts to bully. He’s not afraid to litigate, he’s not afraid to bury people in paper and think it’s not worth the fight/money so they back off. It has worked more often than not for him.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stood at the podium and suspended Sterling from the NBA for life and saying he would push to force a sale of the team, all the while sounding like a guy ready for a fight.

TMZ says Sterling is gearing up for the fight (hat tip to SI’s The Point Forward).

Donald Sterling is on the hunt to hire a major L.A. law firm to sue the NBA for suspending him and attempting to strip him of ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers … TMZ Sports has learned.

Sources familiar with the situation tell us … Sterling’s people were in touch with several law firms last week, including the powerhouse firm Glaser Weil. Patty Glaser is one of the top litigators in the country and has repped scores of celebs, including Conan O’Brien and Keith Olbermann…. We’ve also learned Sterling’s people have been in touch with the mega-law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, a 650-member law firm specializing in business litigation.

The argument, made in federal court, would be that the NBA is violating its own constitution, as Sterling has run his business professionally and not gambled on the game. The league will counter that it has cause because Sterling was bad for business (the players were ready to boycott games and sponsors did pull out). There is no “morals” clause but there are business ethics and other clauses. How solid the footing is for the league depends on what lawyer you ask, Sec. 13 of the constitution is vague enough that Sterling can fight it.

He will want to see if the NBA and Silver have the stomach for an ugly fight (David Stern did not in the past). There will injunctions, and he will drag it out. Complicating matters is Sterling’s wife Shelly owns half the team. (For capital gains tax reasons Sterling will fight for a transfer to a family member as well.)

You can note that Sterling is battling cancer and might at this point just want to walk away. But that’s not who he is as a person. As long as he can, he will fight.

  1. readysethike - May 5, 2014 at 8:07 PM

    oh the irony…if he hired a black lawyer

    • therealhtj - May 5, 2014 at 10:51 PM

      He’ll meet up with Johnny Cochran soon enough.

    • daviddmsvcp - May 6, 2014 at 9:26 PM

      Well, obviously he will hire a black lawyer. Duh.

  2. goraidersgospurs - May 5, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    Just sale old man & enjoy your last few years on earth!!!

    • asimonetti88 - May 5, 2014 at 11:45 PM

      I was told by Clippers fans he wouldn’t fight this in court and would just sell the team and make money!

  3. Gordon - May 5, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    He’s not a person. He’s vermin.

    • therealhtj - May 5, 2014 at 10:56 PM

      Everyone is surprised by this. Reminds me of this bit about the Tiger biting Siegfried and Roy by C Rock:

  4. money2long - May 5, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    Man, the people that help him in court ..I dunno. That’s a bad look. But that’s what they get paid for.

    • hwatt - May 6, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      there are plenty of other racists out there that will be glad to help. guaranteed. look at all the Zimmerman groupies

  5. mrlaloosh - May 5, 2014 at 8:38 PM

    The word is SELL, Raider loser.

  6. gbart22 - May 5, 2014 at 8:40 PM

    This will be awesome. This guy has no qualms airing out the dirty laundry of the nba and come on we all know there is always dirty laundry behind the scenes in pro sports. Now I don’t know why the nba is so insistent he go ahead and sell what they should do is just leave him banned and allow the family to retain the team if they so desire. They could appoint the wife or one of his kids as the head of the franchise. They are not their father and should not be held accountable for his sins. If they want to keep it why force anything?

  7. limonadamas - May 5, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    I’ve said this in the past, but it bears repeating… I don’t have any reason to doubt the veracity of the prostate cancer claim, but people need to realize that prostate cancer is by no means a death sentence. Prostate cancer grows very slowly. Most people who have prostate cancer end up dying of other causes. In fact, after a certain age, you don’t even check for it anymore because even if they have it, it doesn’t really matter..

    I suspect the timing of the “revelation” was tied to trying to get public pressure off of him to sell. Before people get up in arms about this suspicion, they need to remember that Sterling’s used delay tactics before. He sounds crazy on that recording, but he’s very sharp when it comes to this kind of thing. He’s going to fight to the bitter end. I really hope Silver and everyone else involved keeps the pressure up. Sterling’s banking on public pressure to wane and eventually dissipate. He’s banking on a war of attrition.

    • trevor123698 - May 6, 2014 at 1:41 AM

      you dont know anything about this. prostate cancer tests have a 95% false positive. its useless. almost all men over age 65 have at least the onset of prostate cancer and it means nothing unless you are dumb enough to be sCAMMED by doctors. my grandpa was and they robbed, then killed him. was fine till treatment started

      • hwatt - May 6, 2014 at 1:31 PM

        i believe you. can’t stand doctors and all the tests they do to fill their own pockets. will keep a note on this one.

    • trevor123698 - May 6, 2014 at 1:42 AM

      the inventor of the prostate cancer test admitted this himself. but you wont listen anyways. btw cancer is already cured 15 times over.

      • trevor123698 - May 6, 2014 at 3:54 PM

        all people who thumbed this down are retarded and spend their life eating mcdonalds french fries and sandwiches and call it food. you have no chance in hell of curing your own cancer. you are too stupid and weak minded

  8. ProBasketballPundit - May 5, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    Lawyers should refuse to represent him. But then a lawyer has never taken a moral stance on anything ever so…

    • 00maltliquor - May 5, 2014 at 9:05 PM

      Yeah like that’s gonna happen! Lol

      Laywers don’t see black or white, all they see is green!

      • padraighansen - May 6, 2014 at 8:23 AM

        Actually, I know a couple of firms who have already said they will not pursue the work because it would conflict with their broader diversity program & policies.

        But keep speaking about broad, inaccurate generalities. It works for certain media companies & politicians.

    • daviddmsvcp - May 6, 2014 at 9:30 PM

      Oh, I don’t know, maybe because he is innocent until found guilty?

      OK, OK, he is not charged with a crime. I know that. But it will be quite the feather in the cap for the law firm that lands this case. And if they win it, fame and fortune.

      I don’t think any of OJ Simpsons’ lawyer suffered very much.

  9. rcali - May 5, 2014 at 8:56 PM

    Pay attention kids as the adults are about to come and play and they play dirty. I got my popcorn ready!

  10. 00maltliquor - May 5, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    Give ’em hell Donald! Fight the good fight!

  11. BrownsTown - May 5, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    America: 2014……Where having a private conversation with legal, but offensive remarks is secretly recorded and then released as part of a legal action, forcing you to sell your property and not deserve legal representation, according to some.


    • ranfan12 - May 5, 2014 at 10:34 PM

      allegedly secretly recorded

      • 00millerfortune - May 5, 2014 at 10:47 PM

        Yes, key word. Allegedly. Don’t want to get sued!

    • aqzi - May 6, 2014 at 12:27 AM

      I understand the sentiment, but I think that it wasn’t just these comments that caused Silver to force Sterling out. Sterling has a history of disgusting behavior, and his cachet in the league has been at an all-time low for 20 years. The Clippers being a championship contender means the comments get more publicity (compare it to the Elgin lawsuit where people in LA didn’t even care). Publicity + sponsors leaving + history of horrible ownership + angry players and commentators = Sterling banned for life. (Rightfully so, if you ask me.)

  12. antistratfordian - May 5, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    Let it go, Don. This is not a cause worth fighting for.

    • therealhtj - May 5, 2014 at 10:47 PM

      You know all too well, that’s never stopped him in the past and it wasn’t happening this time.

  13. 1972wasalongtimeago - May 5, 2014 at 10:25 PM

    Better Call Saul

    • unxpexted1 - May 6, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      best comment i’ve seen on here ever

  14. jason9696 - May 5, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    This is going to get very messy.

  15. qball59 - May 5, 2014 at 11:22 PM

    While I don’t much care for the opinions expressed by Donald Sterling on the tape, I sincerely hope he completely and utterly crushes the vicious, hypocritical magpies of Political Correctness with this lawsuit…

    • trevor123698 - May 6, 2014 at 4:06 AM

      i agree 100%. this is unethical by the NBA

      • ranfan12 - May 6, 2014 at 4:49 PM

        money and ethics don’t always mix, especially when it affects public opinion

    • lawrinson20 - May 6, 2014 at 4:53 AM

      Gives me a smile, every time some idjit expresses an actual ‘anti-correctness’ sentiment. These seem to be the same people for whom “intellectual elite” is an insult.

      @trevor – “This is unethical by the NBA.”
      What, then, would be your solution? He retains ownership, as a blight on the NBA? Dragging down with him the team, the city, and the league? Without sponsorship. Without the hope of free agents signing to play for him. With a coach and GM resolved not to work for him. The league has a responsibility. To itself. To its fans. To the world. And, above all, there are times in life where PRINCIPAL should override all. This is such an occasion. Whether or not it costs the league millions of dollars to fight the suit. Whether or not the league wins. The league owes society this fight.

      And, too many people don’t seem to understand how “franchises” work. Sterling, effectively, owns one McDonald’s restaurant. He operates it, but can only do so within the confines of rules established by the umbrella corporation. You violate McD rules, you don’t get to be an owner. And, if you’re resting an argument on a second-grader’s concept of “free speech,” please grow up. There is no such thing. Speech carries consequences. Keep in mind some simpleton’s examples: you can’t yell “Fire” in a theater. You can’t falsely accuse someone. You can’t incite a riot…. Speech is not “free.” While it may be a separate legal matter, the issue of how Sterling’s remarks were made public, that’s irrelevant in this argument. They’re public knowledge now, and the public is reacting. I don’t suppose you have a way to make the world ‘unhear’ it all.

      • qball59 - May 6, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        @lawrinson20: I’m not denying, or objecting to, the fact that there are consequences for Donald Sterling for the thoughts and opinions he expressed on the tape. He has cost the NBA money and he needs to be held accountable for it.

        What I object to is the excessive and vindictive penalty imposed upon him. Anything beyond a substantial fine and suspension is a burnt offering made to the gods of Political Correctness.

  16. sportfan2 - May 6, 2014 at 7:02 AM

    So he is getting a Law firm is news? What do you think the NBA is doing. I’m sure his girl friend has one too.

  17. padraighansen - May 6, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    I know both of these firms, and some of their partners, very well. He’ll pay more for Quinn Emmanuel, but Glaser Weil – despite being a smaller firm – is a high-end boutique and has a great reputation in the market. I’m a little surprised that Gibson Dunn is not involved in this….along with about 10 other firms. Some firms with strong diversity programs will not pursue this work at all.

  18. mogogo1 - May 6, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    The part I think the NBA may be most vulnerable on is in running the sale of the team. Don’t know how they can do that without leaving themselves open to Sterling claiming the sale price was either adversely affected by the circumstances or that they accepted a low-ball bid to get the most preferred candidate in as the new owner. Would seem it would be safer legal ground for the league to buy the team from him like they did with the Hornets. Or just force him to sell in a certain period of time with the details up to him like a normal sale.

  19. spursareold - May 6, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    The fact that no one is yet representing him speaks to the dead end that is his case. Lawyers are like sharks smelling blood in the water. If this were a strong case, he’d be represented already. They’d be coming after him, he wouldn’t be lawyer shopping.

    • florida727 - May 6, 2014 at 11:14 AM

      Only thing I disagree with from your comment is that some of these firms are so highly thought of and do NOT need the publicity, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they’ve already signed-on and won’t make an announcement of representing him until something formal (with their name on it) needs to be filed in the court system. Let’s them work in anonimity for at least a little while. Sometimes being out of the bright lights has its advantages, even if only for a short while.

  20. davidly - May 6, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    The easiest solution would be for the fans not to buy tickets next season which would make the case for a forced sale (based on the detrimental financial health of the team) too solid for a court to even accept his case. But you think the allegedly outraged fans will do that?

  21. bengcolt - May 6, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    Good I hope that he wins . Hate all you want but as upsetting as his comments were he was exploited and he was handed a very unfair sentence.

  22. jerdogthompson - May 6, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    All these moronic trolls that are hoping for a long and messy fight or “I hope he can keep the team”, are either Laker fans hoping to play vulture on any players that leave the team. Or they are people living in their parents basement that receive satisfaction only when espousing nonsense on things they clearly are not educated enough to understand.

    The team will be sold, don’t believe me? Read the NBA bylaws and then and only then will you have begun to understand that a forced sale is in the confines of such bylaws.

    This time next year there will be a new owner period! Now move along you morons, your mother is calling you or is that the French fry beeper I hear?


  23. philliephaninva - May 6, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    Good luck making any money with a basketball franchise that has no players or coach. I’m sure they will sell lots of tickets.

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