Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has hired a prominent lawyer in a bid to maintain control of his team.
Sports Illustrated's Michael McCann reported Thursday that Sterling has hired litigator Maxwell Blecher in an effort to disobey NBA sanctions and potentially sue the league. McCann cited a source with knowledge of the 80-year-old owner's planned actions.
According to McCann, Blecher specializes in antitrust litigation and wrote a letter to NBA executive vice president Rich Buchanan, asserting that he would sue and implying that a formal decision would be made on the Sterling saga.
McCann also notes that "The letter, sources tell SI.com, claims that Sterling has done nothing wrong and that 'no punishment is warranted' for Sterling."
Blecher added that Sterling won't pay the $2.5 million fine commissioner Adam Silver dished out, on top of a ban for life from the league, stating in the letter, "We reject your demand for payment." The litigator also argues that Sterling's due process rights were violated and that Sterling did not violate any specific provision of the NBA Constitution.
However, ESPN's Brian Windhorst notes that Sterling can't avoid paying the fine:
Donald Sterling can refuse to pay his $2.5M fine all he wants to make statement but league will just withhold it from TV payout money.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 16, 2014
Paul Finebaum of ESPN proposed an alternative strategy the league could deploy:
Wouldn't it make more sense if the NBA paid Donald Sterling $2.5 mil to go away rather than fight whether he should pay?— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) May 16, 2014
Sports tax guru Robert Raiola added his take on Sterling's reluctance to part with the franchise:
CBS personality Doug Gottlieb isn't surprised by Sterling's stinginess:
Refusing to pay the $2.5 mil fine and counter-suing is the most Donald Sterling thing ever #Clippers— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) May 16, 2014
In case there's a need to rehash what led to this unfortunate fiasco, Sterling made racist remarks in private that were released to the public. That was the genesis for his ban from the NBA and the maximum fine Silver assessed to him.
What kind of a guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV? Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn't do anything.
McCann weighed in on Sterling's CNN appearance, along with what to expect in the forthcoming litigation:
Donald Sterling's decision to go on @andersoncooper was disastrous on many levels, including that everything he said is admissible in court.— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) May 16, 2014
On a lawyer taking on Sterling's case: remember some of the wealthiest lawyers lose most of the time. Wins count, but so do paying clients.— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) May 16, 2014
Sterling clearly made an effort to deflect blame and not acknowledge his own shortcomings in the Cooper interview. Nothing could have accentuated that more than his decision to take the NBA to court.
It's interesting that Blecher's area of expertise is antitrust law, because it's ridiculous to assert that the blowback Sterling has received for his ignorant conduct is due to collusion. There isn't a conspiracy against Donald Sterling. The man manufactured this monstrous image by being bigoted and getting caught on tape espousing those views.
Based on this course of legal action, Sterling seems to feel little authentic remorse. The Clippers franchise, fanbase and the rest of pro basketball has dealt enough with the negativity surrounding the disgraced owner. By adding a nitpicking lawyer to the mix and dragging this through due process, it will only add to the misery for the maligned franchise.