Today in “news that isn’t surprising”: Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling reportedly refuses to pay the $2.5 million fine the NBA levied upon him, and he is considering suing the league if he is not afforded due process.
Sterling is in a bit of a tricky situation, because NBA bylaws — which Sterling agreed to — state that his ownership of the team could be terminated if he doesn’t pay the fine within 30 days of written notice from commissioner Adam Silver that he is in default on the payment.
In a letter sent on Sterling’s behalf, antitrust litigator Max Blecher also threatened to sue the league if Sterling is not afforded due process.
According to a report on SI.com, the letter was sent Wednesday and asserts that “no punishment is warranted” for Sterling, who was banned for life and fined $2.5 million for racist remarks he made that were published by TMZ. The letter claims Sterling has not breached the NBA constitution and that his “due process rights” were violated by the league’s four-day investigation.
Sterling’s ability to remain owner of the Clippers rests in the hands of the NBA’s other 29 owners, who are expected to vote on the matter. A 75 percent majority is needed to oust Sterling. In the interim, the league has made Dick Parsons the CEO of the franchise.
The NBA’s constitution, which Sterling signed as controlling owner of the Clippers, gives its board of governors broad latitude in league decisions.
The key to the NBA’s authority, attorneys say, is Article 13(d) of the league’s constitution. That section says that, whether Sterling intended to or not, an owner cannot “fail or refuse to fulfill” contractual obligations to the NBA “in such a way to affect the Association or its members adversely.”
As long as the NBA meticulously follows its own constitution and rules regarding the Clippers sale, it will be difficult for Sterling to find a legal theory that would stand up in court, said Daniel Lazaroff, director of the Sports Law Institute at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
“This is not an antitrust issue. This is not a First Amendment issue,” Lazaroff said. “It’s a question limited to the interpretation of the NBA constitution and bylaws, and whether those terms are met.”