Sterling will sue – massively and ingeniously

"Now facing their greatest challenge — the NBA's attempt to force them to sell the Clippers — it is no surprise that the Sterlings are girding for a legal fight. Shelly Sterling has hired a lawyer who vowed to "go to war" to preserve her stake in the team while her estranged husband, a former trial attorney, has indicated that he will take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The record of suits filed by the Sterlings and their various business entities, as well as interviews with those involved, suggest that the NBA should expect a protracted and contentious dispute. Opponents and a former lawyer for Donald Sterling said the real estate mogul regards lawsuits as a stalling tactic and has initiated them even when the facts and the law were against him."  LA Times


This guy was always going to sue.  It is in his blood to sue.  IMO he is just waiting for the NBA and the other owners to feed him enough rope to hang them with.

The suits will be multi-part, complex and driven home by an army of the best lawyers that money can buy.

There will be at least one concerning his first amendment rights and I would not be surprised to see his sweety (not the wife) testify tearfully on his behalf about the "lovers' tiff" that led her to reveal his private converstaion.

I understand that there are real tax advantages involved in having the equity in the franchise still be in the family trust when he dies.  pl

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67 Responses to Sterling will sue – massively and ingeniously

  1. Frabjous says:

    IMO the NBA and Sterling will come to some agreement b/c they have a shared interest in the value of their respective brands both of which (NBA the league and Clippers the team) will continue to devalue more the longer and the more acrimoniously this drags out.
    Does either one profit by proving who has escalation dominance?
    The blind fighting the ignorant!

  2. kao_hsien_chih says:

    A lot of it will be for the show…but NBA will be gravely embarrassed, whether they settle or not.
    The whole affair seems to be the byproduct of the mindset of so many people these days: we (not literally “we” of course, but many of the 21st century Americans) demand the right not to have to see or hear things that we find offensive. In so doing, we become ever so willing to oppress the rights of the politically unpopular, and when there are groups who find different things offensive, things become comically tragic. (e.g. St. Patrick’s Day parades in different cities where some people found overt gays participating in parades offensive and others found their exclusion offensive.)

  3. nick b says:

    I posted this in another thread, but it’s worth a second look. It spells out some of the legal issues that are involved in this case, and what effects a suit by Sterling may have on his ownership of the Clippers, his lifetime ban, and the NBA and its other owners.

  4. Eric Dönges says:

    How is this a first amendment issue ? As far as I understand the case (which is admittedly not very far), it’s not the government that is punishing him for his speech, it’s the NBA, so the first amendment doesn’t apply.
    That being said, while I can imagine the NBA could be well within their rights to withdraw the Clipper’s license to play in the league, how on earth can they force him to sell the team ?

  5. The right to sue as American as apple pie! You don’t always win of course!

  6. Will Reks says:

    I agree that this will be messy but I think the NBA knew what they were potentially facing when they went down this road.
    I also don’t think they had much of a choice considering they are in the middle of the playoffs and players were considering boycotting games.
    The NBA is not a poor league. They are able to match Sterling in terms of resources.
    I won’t make a prediction on how this will turn out but I think there’s a good chance the Sterling family retains some ownership interest.

  7. turcopolier says:

    Eric Donges
    “President Barack Obama on Sunday described comments reportedly made by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers “incredibly offensive racist statements,” before casting them as part of a continuing legacy of slavery and segregation that Americans must vigilantly fight.
    “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk,” Obama said when asked to respond to Donald Sterling’s reported comments.
    Obama’s description of the controversy as part of a larger historical context is the latest example of his continuing willingness to expound on matters of race in his second term.” CBS News
    The president of the United States is the chief law enforcement officer of the country. the AG is merely one of his subordinates.
    By pronouncing on this matter to the media Obama put the weight of the US Government behind a process against this man on the basis of his speech. pl

  8. John Minnerath says:

    Too much PC gone too far.
    The Prez and the AG had no business getting involved, no surprise that they did.

  9. turcopolier says:

    I had forgotten that Holder ran his mouth about this as well. That will further strengthen Sterling’s case. This behavior on the part of Obama/Holder is somewhat equivalent to an exercise of “command influence” in a military criminal case. pl

  10. nick b says:

    Has there been any indication thus far that Mr. Sterling will pursue his case on 1st amendment grounds? I would imagine he would pursue a case based on breach of contract and antitrust. I believe the CNN article you cited mentioned that the lawyer hired by Mr. Sterling is an antitrust lawyer.

  11. turcopolier says:

    nick b
    I see no reason why Sterling cannot pursue as many suits as please him. pl

  12. Tyler says:

    Blacks versus Jews and it ain’t even my birthday!

  13. fanto says:

    All, don’t we see a double standard here? What would happen if a Black would talk about Jews in the way Sterling talks about Blacks? Would would it not be immediately probibited as ‘hate speech’?

  14. PirateLaddie says:

    Mixed emotions, at the very least.
    When one of the tribe pursues plef rather than, say knowledge or the healing arts, the first step is usually a name change — to something like “Gold” or “Diamond.” It’s refreshing to see one whose arrogance and pride was limited to something as gentlemanly as “Sterling.”
    The whole “granting of boons” to the lords of the sports world (anti-trust exemption being only the most blatant) should be on the table as the result of this kerfluffle. One can only hope for a prolonged knife fight & my money’s on the mohel.

  15. GulfCoastPirate says:

    Doesn’t this all ultimately come down to the fact that Sterling owns a franchise and not the NBA itself. Surely those who provide franchises have clauses in the paperwork so they can remove franchisees for specific reasons. How is the NBA any different than McDonald’s, Burger King, etc.?

  16. jonst says:

    Eric, I think this could, repeat, could, become a ‘first amendment’ issue if the courts blunder, IMHO, and back up the NBA’s corporate fiat to ‘take’ the team from Sterling, and his family. Period. And in the alternative, to ‘take’ the team from Sterling and his family below value. Because there will be two fights if the NBA proves successful ‘taking’ the team from the Sterling. i.e. Can you do it? If you can, at what fair price?. I think, at that point, a first amendment claim MIGHT become one defense, of many.
    I think the bigger, more fascinating issue here…at least to me as a lawyer is the aggressive push by the ‘players’, some of them, by the talking heads on ESPN and radio talk shows on sports, and by many callers/tweeters/posters that DEMANDS that the team be taken from Sterling, and family and damn quickly too. Before the start of the next season. Quickly followed up by the claim that Sterling’s resistance to fighting the takeover only exacerbates the initial’injury’ he inflicted in the phone call. Usually this stuff involves someone losing a roll on a TV show or something. Or losing a job. Or an account. But this is a new and aggressive front in the PC wars. Now, here, ’emotional discomfort’, by an undifferentiated mass of people, is to be soothed with economic taking as the solution. This is all getting very interesting. And into this heady mix we have the cover story in the Atlantic calling for ‘reparations’ (from who exactly?) to be paid (to who exactly?) for some sins of the fathers. (whose sins, exactly?) Given the increased rhetoric of Holder and Obama it will be very interesting indeed to see where this all goes. Suffice to say, I got a very bad feeling about it all. Sit back and get the popcorn.
    Regards Webb and Warren? They would, on the slim chance they ran, or either of them ran, be initially portrayed as Knights on Shinning Armour out to slay a dragon. Even if they don’t want to be. And those creepy types that run campaigns and media companies love nothing better than to throw mud on that wall. And they are very good at it. Not so good at actually governing…but very good at destroying. My two cents.

  17. jonst says:

    So, is ‘McDonald’s and Burger King ect’ to start taking away a person’s franchise (property right) because an 81 year old man, on cancer meds, long whispered to be leaning to early dementia, rambles on, incoherently, in a private conversation with a ‘mistress’– to the extent we can use even that term to dignify V–who surreptitiously, and perhaps, illegally, tapes the rant? Because if that is the standard, in a day and age where all of us are subject to our mails and conversations being captured and stored, we all can stand by for trouble.

  18. nick b says:

    Here’s a link to the NBA’s Constitution and By Laws. There is an article(13)that deals specifically with the termination of ownership or membership in the NBA. I’m not a lawyer, but it doesn’t seem as though anything Mr. Sterling said or did is covered. It does mention that the decision will be made by a vote of the owners: 3/4 must vote to terminate. I can’t imagine that NBA Commissioner Silver would even suggest terminating Donald Sterling’s ownership if he didn’t have the votes, but recent statements from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban make we wonder.

  19. Eric Dönges says:

    Mr. Lang,
    I fail to see how President Obama opining on something automatically puts the weight of the U.S. government behind what is a civil dispute between the NBA and Mr. Sterling, which will be judged on whoever can present a better argument in court (i.e. who can afford the better lawyers), not the opinion of Mr. Obama or Mr. Holder.
    If I am wrong and this is a case of “command influence” as you write in your response to JM below, then I would think that your republic is in very serious trouble that goes way beyond Mr. Sterling’s first amendment rights.

  20. The Twisted Genius says:

    Looks like Sterling signed over his controlling interest in the Clippers to his estranged wife for the stated purpose of negotiating the sale of the team. Maybe this is all part of the legal maneuvering. I’m hoping it’s Sterling’s way of telling the NBA to take their team, their puffed up outrage and their fines and shove it all straight up their asses. He may be a miserable old douche, but the manufactured outrage over his boneheaded comments is ridiculous. He doesn’t need any of this stuff.

  21. Fred says:

    So I can record your private converstations without your permisson, release these to your boss and the press whereby the former may force you to sell your property and the later slander you by editing said recordings? How is that legal? If you’re ‘just’ an employee can the company fire you based on the recordings I made and released without your permission?

  22. turcopolier says:

    “then I would think that your republic is in very serious trouble that goes way beyond Mr. Sterling’s first amendment rights.” You would be correct. Obama is the chief magistrate of the US. He pronounced this man guilty without benefit of due process. pl

  23. Fred says:

    Yes, it seems that the position of the Executive and Legislative branches of government is that a private individual may record any converstation anywhere at any time and release this to anyone they desire. That entity (in this case TMS) can then edit that recording, release it to the public and therby force any private individual to divest themselves of owenership of a franchise?
    I have to wonder what’s next? I know you remember Tailgunner Joe demanding “are you now or have you ever been a member of the comunist party?” It looks like the Democratic Party now demands to know what you think in private by secretly recorded conversations.

  24. nick b says:

    As twisted as it sounds, I’ve seen things like that happen. I can think of one instance in particular where emails were made public as part of a lawsuit. Language used in those emails, irrelevant to the suit in question, was a violation of company policy and it cost this fellow his job, he was also forced to liquidate restricted stock and was also embarrassed in the press. It happens.
    Also, the laws regarding recording conversations vary from state to state. In New York, only one party need know the conversation is recorded. I saw this lead to all kinds of problems when I worked there.
    If you work as an ‘at will employee’ you can be terminated for any reason, speech included.

  25. nick b says:

    As twisted as it sounds, I’ve seen things like that happen. I can think of one instance in particular where emails were made public as part of a lawsuit. Language used in those emails, irrelevant to the suit in question, was a violation of company policy and it cost this fellow his job, he was forced to liquidate company stock and was also embarrassed in the press. It happens.
    Also, the laws regarding recording conversations vary from state to state. In New York, only one party need know the conversation is recorded. I saw this lead to all kinds of problems when I worked there.
    If you work as an ‘at will employee’ you can be terminated for any reason, speech included. I got myself fired once for flipping someone the bird. My right to free speech didn’t save me.

  26. GulfCoastPirate says:

    jonst and Fred:
    I’m not a lawyer but I simply commented on the ability of an entity who grants franchises to then take said franchise away (or force a sale to someone else) if the franchisee fails to live up to contractual agreements. I don’t see where this has anything to do with the first amendment at all nor does it have anything to do with an employee/employer relationship.

  27. Mark Logan says:

    The NBA wants him to do exactly that, and seems unlikely to warn him about the door.
    From his perspective the team is a plausible contender but can’t be expected to remain so for long under his ownership. He has rather seriously screwed himself for the annual free-agent competitions. It’s reasonable to say that, for him, it’s at peak value.

  28. Tyler says:

    This isn’t the first time he’s done this. Let us not forget the comments about “looked like my son” IRT Trayvon.

  29. kao_hsien_chih says:

    These are hardly hypothetical concerns. Everything is potentially being recorded these days, by someone. There is a good chance that someone is recording your thoughts if they happen to have been uttered somewhere (even if in private) and are liable to be exposed to the public as proof that you are a horrible person that offends “public sensibilities,” and if you are such a horrible person, you are liable to lose your job, lose your property, etc.
    Not that long ago, one of the liabilities of homosexuals, for example, in holding positions of responsibilities was that they were liable to blackmail. Those who knew what they were doing could threaten to expose them and compromise them. Now, one might say that the removal of stigma associated with them has made that less likely. BUT the prevailing mood of political correctness, coupled with technological changes, has apparently made everyone liable to be blackmailed as such. Who is not guilty of uttering something that can be taken as a potentially offensive to someone ever? If they can be exposed, and everyone is presumed to have the inviolate right not to be offended, everyone who might be guilty of being exposed as a “horrible person” who offends is potentially subject to blackmail. So much for “equal” rights. Now, everyone is supposed to live in fear of being “exposed,” I guess.

  30. nick b says:

    Shirley Sherrod comes to mind too.

  31. nick b says:

    apologies for the double post.

  32. Stephanie says:

    TTG, I’d say it’s his way of throwing in the towel. He’s now trying to get a better deal for the sell, which is fair enough. Shelly can’t become a controlling owner without league approval, and the league will not approve.
    Sterling made a big mistake talking to Anderson Cooper, which only gave the league more ammunition in any potential legal battle. Sterling can fight but in the end he would likely lose. Of course, the threat of tying up the league in a legal battle has its own force.
    I have some sympathy for Sterling but these are the rules the club he joined plays by and it’s a little late for him to complain.
    The moral of the story is, don’t let wifey file a clawback suit against the girlfriend.

  33. Fred says:

    It’s not just the league. Once they succeed in forcing him to divest his team ownership there is nothing to stop him from suing every player who defamed his reputation based on comments from an illegally recored and doctored tape of a private conversation. I’m sure they’ll all be happy to testify under oath at a deposition where skilled lawyers will prove they each and every one of them were virtuous without a hint of bigotry in their bones – or a recording anywhere of them making racist comments about anyone. He’ll have about $300 million to hire lawyers with. It’s not like he’s going to leave that to his mistress.

  34. Will Reks says:

    I think that this transcends political lines.
    The major thing you’re ignoring here is that this isn’t your average private property seizure case. NBA teams cannot function outside of the collective league. Now whether their bylaws allow the NBA to strip Sterling of ownership would have to be determined by a court. I’m kind of disappointed that Sterling seems to have thrown in the towel.
    I don’t think there’s a chance in hell Sterling files a lawsuit against any NBA player for defamation but that would be very entertaining.

  35. Stephanie says:

    Fred, I believe the first thing the league did was verify that the recording was not doctored. Sterling said what he said. (The illegality is a point that can be argued. I think it’s sort of beside the point at this point.) The private nature of the conversation would bother me less if Sterling had been speaking to an executive of the team or even to his wife about team policy. However, he was speaking to a lover in private. I too am bothered by that.
    But we live in the world we live in, and what Sterling said was so explosively awful that there was no stopping the scandal; it actually became worse the more details were revealed.
    As for your proposed lawsuit against the players who spoke out – I’d pay to see that, but I rather doubt that Sterling will. He’s a creep but he’s not dumb. Also, he has family, and I assume he doesn’t want to blow a big chunk of his dough on futile legal battles.
    And yes, the league is being hypocritical. But I don’t have it in me to feel terribly sorry for Sterling. When this is over, he’ll likely be richer. He just won’t have a basketball team to run badly. Such is life.

  36. turcopolier says:

    “… he doesn’t want to blow a big chunk of his dough on futile legal battles.” This would be a trivial amount of money for him. pl

  37. Fred says:

    “Such is life.”
    Yes, we must now conform to speech – in private – that does not offend the politically powerful. Somebody might record us speaking – in private – without our permission. Any corporate entity may then force us to sell off our property. That’s the true foundation of our civil society – conform or else.

  38. Fred says:

    yes, its not your average private property seizure case. I don’t expect any lawsuits against players, or anyone else, for defamation but it sure would be entertaining.

  39. Stephanie says:

    Col., I was replying specifically to Fred’s suggestion of a suit against the players. Certainly the threat of long-term litigation to hold on to the team is a card he can use against the league, but only up to a certain point since his legal position is not so good. Sterling not only has privately racist remarks the league can use, he has a public record as well. I expect there’s more out there for the league’s lawyers to dig for. Robert Bennett, defending Marge Schott, was able to threaten the baseball owners with the prospect of oppo research on them, but there’s a new breed of rich owner now and that wouldn’t be so easy for Sterling.

  40. Stephanie says:

    Well, Fred, that will teach Sterling not to mess around with women who are no better than they should be. As he said, “I should have paid her off.” He’s certainly old enough to know better. No fool like an et cetera.

  41. turcopolier says:

    “He’s certainly old enough to know better. No fool like an et cetera.” A bit sexist and ageist, you sound like Mika B. pl

  42. turcopolier says:

    Perhaps you are a lawyer. I am not, but I have had the misfortune to spend a lot of time in court and in chambers as a witness. IMO lawyers can make several cases out of the material at hand here. This guy has special task counsel as well as house lawyers. pl

  43. Fred says:

    Well Stephanie, I don’t give a damn about Sterling. I do care about the other 310,000,000 Americans who will get the same treatment. Apparently you don’t, because its only happening to a rich racist.

  44. Tyler says:

    The talk about bylaws and such obfuscates the true purpose which is: setting a precedent for taking your property away from you based off of private conversations illegally recorded.
    That’s some Soviet Union shit right there, and no amount of hemming and hawing from the bobbing heads on the TV can change that. The comments about “inappropriateness” coming from Commissioner Skeletor are hilarious in light of the crimes, negligence, and other idiocies perpetrated by the majority of the players.
    Let’s review what Stirling’s thought crimes were: Basically asking his mistress to stop publicly cuckolding him at the ball games while she played dumb about what she was doing. A semi reasonable request, I think. Its not like he came out in a white suit, sipping a mint julep while he called his players “Boy” and checked their teeth in between quarters.
    The speed at which “ism” of any sort and having opinions has become a mortal sin that should cost you everything you’ve ever had ever is somewhat breathtaking.
    I’m sure that the new demand that anyone who holds a “bad” opinion (as defined by the LA/DC/NYC cultural axis) be stripped of their livelihood is going to work out with zero repercussions at all.

  45. Fred says:

    “he true purpose which is: setting a precedent for taking your property away from you based off of private conversations illegally recorded.”
    Absolutely. Followed by the proclamation of attainder from both the President and the Attorney General of the United States, to whit “Sterling is guilty” because they say so. As you know a bill of attainder is unconstitutional. Of course these two great lawyers (Obama and Holder) are in the Executive Branch, so just declaring people guilty is a-okay.

  46. Tyler says:

    The Executive serves as the action arm for the internet lynch mob composed of junior auxiliary volunteer thought police.
    What a country.

  47. Stephanie says:

    Col., I didn’t invent the saying. I’d say even Sterling might admit its applicability here.
    I had to look up “Mika B” – not as au courant with all of MSNBC’s hosts as I should be, I suppose – so I’ll have to take your word for it. I do, of course, know who her dad is.

  48. turcopolier says:

    No. You are picking on him because he is a sick, sentimental old man who doesn’t have enough sense to keep quiet. You don’t know who Mika B is? Remarkable. pl

  49. Stephanie says:

    I do not watch as much television as I ought to do, perhaps. I had heard of Scarborough, but I’ve never actually seen more than a snippet of his show and didn’t know he had a co-host. Fortunately,there’s the Internet to fill me in.

  50. turcopolier says:

    Palo Alto? Stanford? Well, ordinary Americans learn things in ways that are worth understanding. pl

  51. Stephanie says:

    I am a simple girl of the people. You may depend upon it, sir, as people used to say. And I do watch the teevee, but mainly for sports and movies. I just happen to disagree, courteously, with your assessment of Mr. Sterling and his chances at law. I am available for crow-eating purposes should it be called for.

  52. Tyler says:

    Hah hah glad to see the old man is refusing to buckle under and is gearing up for a fight. Commissioner Skeletor is going to hate this sideshow.

  53. turcopolier says:

    Tyler et al
    Sterling is a badly flawed business man (ugh!), but if he fights back against the ignorant armies of the PC world he is doing us all a favor. pl

  54. Tyler says:

    No you see Fred, we have racism to fight and racism is the worst thing ever so we must suspend the Constitution and English Common Law (which were invented by white racists) in order to deal with this.

  55. Mark Logan says:

    Just a minor FYI, it occurred to me this might not be widely known in the east: They air “Morning Joe” at 3:00AM on the west coast and do not run it again, and very nearly all of us take the hint.

  56. turcopolier says:

    Mark Logan
    So, its not really a national show. Well, that would explain why it is so much a New York City show. Sorry, Stephanie. pl

  57. Fred says:

    “ESPN reported Thursday that …. experts declared Donald mentally incapacitated.”
    So the NBA, the players, the media, the NAACP and multiple politicians including the President all weighed in on the comments of a many who is mentally incapacitated? A proud moment for all involved. I hope the public pays some attention to the legal ramifications.

  58. turcopolier says:

    Sterling is suing the NBA for one billion. I wish her luck in proving him gaga. pl

  59. Larry Kart says:

    Turns out he won’t sue after all.

  60. turcopolier says:

    Larry Kart
    Let’s see what he got in addition to the money. pl

  61. turcopolier says:

    He is not through. He may do something like adopt a child to continue the fight after he dies. pl

  62. Larry Kart says:

    “He is not through. He may do something like adopt a child to continue the fight after he dies. ”
    With the introduction of the adopted-child ploy, I’m thinking we’ve got the makings of an excellent modern comic opera and/or musical here. Donald, Shirley, the adopted kid, the vindictive mistress, the NBA commissioner — what a cast of characters! We should collaborate. I see the adopted kid as an Annie-type, with a blow torch voice; Shirley a cross between Mama Rose in “Gypsy” and Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls,” and Rita Moreno or Chita Rivera as the mistress. Donald is tricker; I see him as Bert Lahr. The commissioner, who knows?

  63. turcopolier says:

    I see this as something like “The Producers.” Casting will be critical but when do we start writing? pl

  64. Mark Logan says:

    Jack Nicholson.

  65. Larry Kart says:

    “The Producers,” for sure. As for when we start writing, perhaps we should wait for events to unfold a bit more. If Joan Rivers had a bit more meat on her bones, she might make a good Shirley. LK

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