The Continuing Saga of Donald Sterling

Posted on 11 June 2014

The NBA in its haste to take The Clippers from Donald Sterling may have bitten off more than they can chew.


We have already discussed the potential implications the Donald Sterling situation may have on regular citizens.  Taking one’s property for what should be protected speech sets a precedent that could have very damaging consequences for anyone who says something deemed offensive in the future.  What should to be discussed now are the problems the National Basketball Association is bringing on itself in their attempts to take Sterling’s team as fast as it can.


The NBA, like all businesses in this day and age of rapid media response to perceived public relations issues, makes hasty decisions to ease public tensions, and that is no doubt the case with Sterling.  Something of this magnitude and importance, however, simply cannot be rushed because of the many moving parts.


As I proposed in an earlier article, the NBA should have just let the free market handle Donald Sterling.  If people were that offended by what Donald Sterling said, they would stop going to Clipper games and, in the long run, would compel Sterling to sell his team.  The prospects of players boycotting key playoff games put the league in a bind, and they made the judgment to take the team from Sterling.


What people are not talking enough about is that the recording of Donald Sterling’s comments was procured illegally.  This is one of the many moving parts that must be settled before seizing Sterling’s property.  It is difficult to accept, because Sterling admits it’s his voice on the recording.  But, if we only have the recording because of an illegal act, that is the proverbial “fruit from the poisonous tree.”  If a lawyer goes to authorities saying his client admitted to killing someone, regardless of how difficult it may be to deal with, that evidence is not legal.


There is also the community property situation surrounding the team because of the marital situation between Donald and his estranged wife Shelly.  Shelly Sterling has agreed to sell the team as to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claiming that Donald was not mentally capable of making business decisions – thus, allowing her to sell the team under the guise of family trust.  I’m not a lawyer, but any competent person can see the numerous issues with that situation.


If the sale to Ballmer does not hold up in court, then the other owners will likely have to vote on whether or not to take the franchise from Donald Sterling.  If the vote is made public as some are requesting, what if one or two, or even 10 or so (which would be enough no votes for Sterling to keep the team) vote “No?”  Right now, the NBA is dealing with a public relations disaster of one owner deemed a racist.  Do they really want to compound the problem?


Donald Sterling also claims he knows of discriminatory practices by others in the league including current Commissioner David Silver.  Donald Sterling’s reputation speaks for itself.  While he may not be mentally incapacitated, he certainly has a few screws loose upstairs, so anything he says has to be taken with a grain of salt.  If there is any truth to what Sterling is saying about past league transgressions, however, they will certainly come to light in what is shaping up to be an ugly court battle between both sides.


While the league did rush to judgment, they did so because of the public relations value in the instant gratification society in which we now live.  We are also, frequently to our detriment, a highly litigious society, and the NBA is trying to navigate its way through that aspect as well.  The public relations aspect forced the NBA to move swiftly on Donald Sterling.  However, litigation will not move so swiftly and will likely be a much more thorough examination of all sides of this contentious issue.  Yet, I can’t help but think that this whole situation is as messy as a one-year-olds bib.



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One Response to “The Continuing Saga of Donald Sterling”

  1. Jack S. Fogbound says:

    It seems like we as a nation are adopting the court of public opinion, instead of the court of law. Right now we are treading on thin ice by responding to charges of racism every time it rears its ugly head. I think the author is correct in pointing out the probable loss of personal freedoms set by precedence in a rush to judgement. The only winners in this case will be the lawyers that try this case.

    Good Article, Kudos to the Author!

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