After several months of controversy, the saga of Donald Sterling and the Los Angeles Clippers at least appears to be reaching some more tangible development, if not outright resolution. This week, Mr. Sterling and his estranged wife Shelly are in California probate court to determine which of the two has control over the Sterling Family Trust and, by extension, the Clippers. Mrs. Sterling, intent to sell the franchise for a record sum of $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, gained control of the trust after two doctors deemed her husband mentally unable to uphold the duties. Donald and his lawyers fired back by claiming that those tests were administered improperly — you know, because he got drinks with the doctor after it happened, as people normally do — and now they're in court to sort it all out.
Donald Sterling failed to show up for his first day in court on Monday, which doesn't seem like the best way to win the public relations battle. But he was present on Tuesday. Unfortunately for him, he might have been better off sitting out another day, because he took the stand to make more of the bizarre comments that have typified this entire saga (and really the last few years of his public life). As reported on Twitter from various reporters on the scene, Sterling turned his testimony into some unholy mixture of a planned mockery and a genuinely sad attempt to reclaim whatever dignity he might be able to find.
First, Sterling arrived to the courtroom late, as tweeted by Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times:
When Sterling took the stand, he began to act out at Shelly Sterling's lawyer Bert Fields. From Kim Baldonado of NBC4 in Los Angeles:
In arguably the weirdest exchange of the day, he challenged Fields's manhood:
Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. Sterling appeared to bicker with Fields for much of his testimony:
However, Sterling didn't stop at the opposing lawyer. He also spoke out against the media coverage of this entire story, from his initial racist comments to this trial. And he wasn't afraid to name names:
Oddly, it wasn't all so vicious. At one point, Donald said that his wife Shelly — his opponent in court — is the only one he trusts:
Naturally, he later insulted her ability to decide the fate of the Clippers:
Yet Sterling freely admitted to allowing his wife to control the sale:
While these fireworks grabbed most of the attention, Sterling's testimony did touch on the issues at hand, including the medical examinations that deemed him incompetent to control the Sterling Family Trust:
Platzer denied this statement on Monday, but it appears to be Sterling's case against the examination. Regardless, Sterling spoke on his lawsuit against the NBA, as well, claiming the he could win as much as $9 billion in damages:
It bears mention that these are merely isolated quotes and do not sum up the entirety of Sterling's testimony. However, every reporter in attendance noted that his comments were scattered, moving from attacks against Fields and others to emotional statements about his love for his wife with few sensible transitions. Fields attempted to make his case after the end of the day's proceedings:
Donald Sterling's lawyer Bobby Samino attempted to spin his client as putting on a show, which seems absurd on its face. However, there might be some truth to it, or at least some legitimacy to arguing that Sterling did not do anything out of his particular ordinary. As noted by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Sterling has been giving statements like these in depositions for a very long time. This is not a new level of questionable behavior so much as a continuation of something he had done even before this most recent controversy caused the NBA to ban him for life. If Sterling seems particularly troubled, then it's always because he's receiving more attention than ever before.
That relative lack of change doesn't mean these ludicrous comments are perfectly fine, but it is important to remember that the thrust of his testimony (or lack thereof) does not preclude him from winning his case. Court decisions often depend on interpretations of technicalities, not the flow of public opinion. Sterling's behavior certainly isn't an asset to his case, but it also doesn't have to be a massive hindrance.
What it does make clear, though, is just why everyone around the NBA wants Sterling out of the picture as quickly as possible (and why many of us wanted it to happen years ago). No matter his legal standing, the man is an embarrassment to the league and anything positive associated with it. That verdict has more than enough evidence on its side.
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- Society & Culture
- Donald Sterling
- Los Angeles Clippers