Donald Sterling Back To Suing The NBA

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs - Game One

Over the space of a week, Donald Sterling announced that he was suing the NBA, then apparently decided to drop that suit and consent to the sale of the L.A. Clippers to Steve Ballmer. Now, it looks like he’s back to suing the NBA and trying to block the sale again:

In a reversal, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling will pursue a $1 billion federal lawsuit against the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver, and withdraw his support for the sale of the team negotiated by his wife.

“I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights,” Sterling said Monday in a letter circulated widely among those involved in the sale and obtained by “While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled.”

Sterling’s attorney Max Blecher earlier told in an email, “The deal is off.”

Blecher also suggested Donald Sterling would be challenging wife Shelly Sterling’s actions and negotiation of the sale in probate court Tuesday. However, no action had been taken as of Monday night.

Last week, both Donald Sterling and Blecher indicated publicly that they would accept the record $2 billion sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. In an interview with NBC4 during a charity function, Sterling said he was ready to “move on.”

However, Sterling has since changed course. Whether he will be successful in this new challenge remains to be seen.

“From the onset, I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers,” he said in the letter. “I believe that Adam Silver acted in haste by illegally ordering the forced sale of the Clippers, banning me for life from the NBA and imposing the fine. Adam Silver’s conduct in doing so without conducting any real investigation was wrong.

“The action taken by Adam Silver and the NBA constitutes a violation of my rights and fly in the face of the freedoms that are afforded to all Americans.”

Blecher and another Sterling attorney, Bobby Samini, declined Monday to comment on whether the NBA’s refusal to drop Sterling’s lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine is the impetus for his change of heart.

“There was never a discussion involving the NBA in which we would modify Mr. Sterling’s penalty in any way whatsoever,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “Any suggestion otherwise is complete fabrication.”

More from the Los Angeles Times

While Sterling may be ready to continue to press his case against the NBA, including a $1-billion lawsuit he filed two weeks ago, his wife, Shelly, can also go to court in an attempt to clarify her right to control the team and its sale to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.

Shelly Sterling had previously become the sole trustee after her lawyers sent a letter to Donald Sterling on May 29, informing him that she was in charge because of his inability to conduct business affairs.

While it is not required in the terms of the trust, Shelly Sterling could go to court to try to get a judge to validate her position. That would prevent another 11th-hour challenge from her husband.

In such a court action, Shelly Sterling would presumably bring forward the brain scans that her husband submitted to as well as reports written by the pair of neurologists.

People familiar with the bidding for the Clippers, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Donald Sterling’s topsy-turvy behavior in regard to the sale also could be presented as evidence.

In the end, Sterling is not going to be able to stop the sale of the Clippers, and his efforts to overturn the NBA sanctions seem to be doomed as well. In the end, I stand by more previous assessment that this legal maneuvering is all part of an effort by Sterling to get others to cover the expenses he’d incur related to the sale, including but not limited to any tax liabilities.

When it’s all over, though, the only thing this suit will accomplish is to make the lawyers richer. Not that I object to that, mind you.


FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Sports, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    When it’s all over, though, the only thing this suit will accomplish is to make the lawyers richer. Not that I object to that, mind you.


  2. James Joyner says:

    When he was first declared mentally incompetent, I was skeptical. Now, I’m convinced.

  3. Jon Marcus says:

    Now, it looks like he’s back to suing the NBA and trying to black the sale again.

    Sterling is trying to *black* the sale? Best freudian typo of the year. 🙂

  4. grumpy realist says:

    Flip–flop–flip–flop. On again, off again, Finnegan. Luckily it seems the NBA was taking Donald Sterling’s supposed capitulation with a huge grain of salt and assumed he would change his mind at the last minute.

    It does look like this latest round is a snit-fit by Donald because he isn’t getting off the hook for the fine and the banning. (Which if they had said they had dropped, he would probably still be trying to pull the last-minute jerk-the-rug out from under them.)

    Problem is, when you have a history of last-minute reversals, no one trust you when you say you’ll do X.

  5. @Jon Marcus:

    Indeed it was. I need to fix that

  6. dazedandconfused says:

    @James Joyner:

    Hasn’t been a fully coherent thought come out of him since “I should have paid her off” , AFAIK.