It's been nearly two weeks since Sterling's wife, Shelly Sterling, accepted former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's NBA-record-setting $2 billion bid to buy the Clippers, and the NBA announced that its Board of Governors would vote to approve Ballmer's purchase of the franchise. In that time, the 80-year-old real-estate developer — whose lifetime ban following the publication of audio recordings in which he made racist remarks precipitated the forced sale of the franchise he purchased for $12.5 million in 1981 — has sent mixed signals about his next move.
He might be ready to "move on" ... but, then again, he might also want to sue his wife for damaging his reputation by having him declared mentally incompetent. His lawyer said last week that "all disputes and outstanding issues have been resolved" ... but on Sunday night, after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver termed the end of Sterling's ownership "a matter of time," that same attorney pumped the brakes on the suggestion that Sterling was done fighting. From Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal:
Maxwell Blecher, Sterling's attorney, said last week that his client had agreed to drop the [$1 billion] lawsuit [he had filed against the NBA] and sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. But in an email to The Wall Street Journal late Sunday night, Blecher said that agreement was "based on an understanding which the NBA acknowledges was reasonable" that Sterling's lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine would be rescinded.
At a news conference before Game 2 of the Finals, Silver said, "There is absolutely no possibility that the lifetime ban will be rescinded or that the fine will be changed in any way." As a result, Blecher said Mr. Sterling is "ruminating" going ahead with the lawsuit and that "to my knowledge, no decision has yet been made."
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said, "There was never a discussion involving the NBA in which we would modify Mr. Sterling's penalty in any way whatsoever. Any suggestion otherwise is complete fabrication."
The $1 billion federal antitrust lawsuit Sterling filed against the NBA on May 29 seems to have been undercut by the league scuttling a scheduled vote to terminate the Sterlings' ownership under the rules of the NBA's constitution, and an agreement made by Shelly Sterling as the head of the Sterling Family Trust to indemnify the league for any legal judgment or settlement that Donald Sterling earned.
"So in essence, Donald is suing himself and he knows that," Silver said Sunday, before Game 2 of the 2014 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. "While I understand he is frustrated, I think it's over. I think it's just a matter of time now and then we will move on to better topics and back to the Finals."
Blecher, it appears, disagrees with the commissioner's assessment of the situation.
"I read his 'comments,'" Blecher wrote to Costa of the Journal. "He must know something I don't."
All those who would like to see this matter concluded as quickly and painlessly as possible are banking on Blecher being right on that account.
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