In L.A. Clippers case, court does dirty work for NBA

Tue Jul 29, 2014 5:13pm EDT
 
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The National Basketball Association was navigating uncharted and possibly treacherous waters, first when it banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for racist remarks and then when it demanded the team be sold by September.

A court has thrown the league a big life preserver by clearing the way for the 80-year-old real estate billionaire' s estranged wife to complete the $2 billion sale of the franchise to former Microsoft Corp chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Although the notoriously litigious Donald Sterling has threatened to sue the NBA until the day he dies, legal experts say Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas has done them a favor by getting rid of Sterling without a bruising battle.

"This was, in Mafia parlance, a clean hit," said Daniel Wallach, a Florida litigator who has represented professional sports franchises and has followed the case.

"The NBA would have faced an uncertain legal terrain after Donald would bring a lawsuit to challenge the league's decision to strip him of the franchise," he added.

The NBA and its commissioner Adam Silver still face civil lawsuits in California and U.S. courts from Sterling, who says the league's actions relied on illegal evidence and violated corporate law in their attempt to have the team sold.

But the likelihood of his clawing back the team practically disappeared with Monday's ruling in favor of Sterling's wife, Shelly Sterling.

"His remedy at this point will be limited to money damages," said Gabe Feldman, the director of Tulane University's sports law program.   Continued...

 
Shelly Sterling, 79, (C) smiles after leaving court in Los Angeles, California July 28, 2014.   REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson