Clippers owner Donald Sterling doesn't usually come out a winner when basketball is even tangentially involved. While his franchise typically makes money, it has also been the butt of jokes for decades and has generally become synonymous with athletic and organizational incompetence. Even when the team ends up in the black financially, Sterling makes the Clippers into losers.
However, Sterling now has good reason to hold his head high, because a jury unanimously ruled in favor of him in Elgin Baylor's employment discrimination case against Sterling and the Clippers. Lance Pugmire has the details for the Los Angeles Times (via SB Nation):
A Los Angeles County jury Wednesday declined to award damages to NBA great Elgin Baylor, rejecting his lawsuit against the Clippers for unlawful termination based on age discrimination.
By a 12-0 vote, the seven-man, five-woman jury informed Judge Kenneth R. Freeman that neither the team nor owner Donald T. Sterling or president Andy Roeser presided over a hostile workplace in which alleged harassment occurred.
Baylor, 76, the Clippers' 22-year head of player personnel as general manager and executive vice president, was asking for nearly $2 million in economic and mental distress damages over his 2008 departure from the team.
Let me clear up that I have no relation to Judge Freeman, although my father is a lawyer named Kenneth. Presumably they included the "R." in this piece so no one would confuse the two, since my dad is so famous for his work in niche health care law.
From Pugmire's report, it may seem as if Sterling is the winner here. But what the outcome of this case doesn't note is that several bits of testimony from the trial have damned Sterling in the court of public opinion. For instance, did you know that he allegedly used to act in bizarrely racist ways in the Clips' locker room and didn't know that Baylor was an NBA legend when he hired him? In a sane league, each of those pieces of information would be enough for David Stern to force Sterling to sell the franchise to an owner who would actually give a damn about turning the Clippers into a long-term success rather than a very rare playoff participant.
So yes, congrats to Sterling for not having to pay millions of dollars to another party, something he already did once to settle a housing discrimination lawsuit in 2009. But he's still a loser in the Baylor suit, because he was exposed even further as a blight on the NBA landscape. Even if Baylor's case had little merit, you have to wonder what kind of work environment had to exist with the Clips for him to raise a lawsuit against the organization that employed him for more than a decade. As far as I know, other deposed general managers like ex-Raptors exec Rob Babcock don't try to sue their former employers after they're fired. Or, I don't know, maybe Canadian courts don't publicize their cases, since all their judges and lawyers are moose.
Whatever the case, add the resolution of this case to Sterling's seemingly endless history of withstanding the kind of bad publicity that would sink the career of any other NBA owner. Stay tuned next week, when Sterling will admit that he secretly injected Barry Bonds with steroids while the slugger slept.
- Donald Sterling
- Elgin Baylor