Donald Sterling purportedly said, ‘You can’t force someone to sell
property in America.’
the helm. “You can’t force someone to sell property in America,” said the voice in the recording, which was obtained by RadarOnline.com.
Media reports portray Sterling as ready to hunker down and litigate any attempts by the National Basketball Association to force him to relinquish the team.
Is it possible that Sterling, himself a lawyer, could succeed in that litigation?
He does have some legal options that could at least drag out the
proceedings — and a few things may be in his favor, legal experts say.
One area that might become especially complicated: The Clippers are
reportedly owned by a Sterling family trust, which includes Sterling’s
estranged wife, Rochelle Sterling, who apparently does not want to
sell the team.
“One always has a fighting chance so long as the party in question has
deep enough pockets and strong enough resolve. Donald Sterling not
only has both but he has… these advantages,” said Jason Maloni,
chair of litigation practice, sports, and entertainment for Levick, a
public relations firm in Washington and New York. Maloni comments were
made via e-mail.
Sterling’s most effective course may be to focus on the recording that
was released previously, allegedly featuring him making racist
It was those remarks that prompted the NBA to vow a forced sale of the
Clippers and to sanction Sterling with a $2.5 million fine and a
lifetime ban from NBA activities.
The remarks were recorded illegally and disseminated without
Sterling’s consent, said Jesse Choper, a constitutional specialist at
the University of California’s Berkeley School of Law. Therefore, he
said, they might not meet the NBA constitution’s admonition that “an
owner will not take any position or action that will materially and
adversely affect a team or the league,” as ESPN puts it.
“This was a confidential conversation with a lady friend: He certainly
wasn’t taking any position, and he never made it public,” Choper said.
“The key words are ‘position’ and ‘action.’ ”
One important issue to watch could be how California’s status as a
“no-fault” divorce state figures into the case, should it come to that
with the Sterling family trust, said Steve Mindel, a family law
specialist at the Los Angeles firm of Feinberg, Mindel, Brandt &
Klein. The city already went down a somewhat similar path with Frank
and Jamie McCourt, who were owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mr.
McCourt sold the team for $2.15 billion in 2012, five months after
Mrs. McCourt accepted $131 million in a divorce settlement, according
to the Los Angeles Times.
“If two people own a house together and one of them burns it down, the
court can assess penalities,” Mindel said. “It will be interesting to
see if the court thinks Sterling’s actions were tantamount to
destroying an asset.”
In terms of the litigation that may lie ahead, some legal experts have
zeroed in on the comment from the newly released recording — “You
can’t force someone to sell property in America.”
“The fact is that you can make people sell property in America under
certain circumstances,” said Dan Lazaroff, director of the Loyola
Sports Law Institute at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
“In this case, Sterling is a party to the NBA constitution and
bylaws,” Lazaroff elaborates. “That document provides for a forced
sale when specific procedures are followed and articulated conditions
are met. The league’s position is that Sterling’s comments satisfy the
requirements for ownership termination. He obviously disagrees. That’s
why we have lawyers, juries, and judges.”
In the newly released recording purportedly of Sterling, he maintains
that he is not a racist. The voice on the recording has not been
confirmed as Sterling’s.
— Christian Science Monitor
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