Banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has begun to fight back against the NBA in an effort to keep his franchise. Sterling does not plan to give up his team without a fight, and now apparently he doesn’t even plan on paying the $2.5 million fine levied against him by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Sterling’s attorney, Maxwell M. Blecher, wrote a letter to the NBA in which he claimed his client’s racist comments didn’t warrant “any punishment at all” because they were recorded in a private conversation. Blecher is an antitrust attorney who additionally claims that the fine violates Sterling’s due process rights.
Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him for life from the NBA after he was recorded making racist statements to his “friend” V. Stiviano. The recordings were apparently leaked to TMZ Sports by a third party, and subsequently authenticated. Silver also claimed that the league would force Sterling to sell the team and it looks like the NBA’s owners will unanimously vote to do so.
Sterling has admitted that he is the man in the recordings but also claims that since it was a private conversation he doesn’t think he should face any punishment. During a bizarre interview with Anderson Cooper, Sterling apologized for his remarks, then made things even worse by attacking Magic Johnson and black culture in general.
Regardless of what his lawyer says, the NBA absolutely has the right to remove Sterling as the owner of a franchise if it determines he is bad for business. While some people are claiming it is “wrong” for someone to have his property taken away, they don’t seem to understand how the NBA works. To become the owner of a franchise, Sterling had to be approved by the NBA and its other owners. He also had to sign a litany of contracts agreeing to certain standards of conduct. If the league believes he has violated those, it can absolutely force him to sell the team. Sterling won’t be getting nothing in return for the team, he will get the monetary value of it thanks to the sale.
Basically, Sterling is an owner because the NBA allowed him to be an owner. Now the NBA is revoking his right to be an owner. This situation is not the same as the government confiscating someone’s property, like a new car or a house. The privilege of owning an NBA franchise is being taken from him because he was expected to maintain a standard of conduct he wound up not living up to.
Sterling will be forced out regardless of any pending legal action. The league will lose sponsorship deals and a whole lot of money if he isn’t gone soon, and the other owners are well aware of that.