Donald Sterling Hires Attorney to Sue NBA, Refuses to Pay Fine (Report)
The 80-year-old team owner has reportedly hired a high-profile antitrust litigator who has threatened to sue the NBA, claiming that "no punishment is warranted" for Sterling.
Donald Sterling is not going to accept the NBA sanctions against him quietly.
The 80-year-old Los Angeles Clippers owner has hired prominent antitrust litigator Maxwell Blecher, according to a Sports Illustrated report, who wrote a letter to NBA executive vice president and general counsel Rick Buchanan threatening to sue the league.
The letter reportedly claims that Sterling has done nothing wrong, that "no punishment is warranted," and that he does not plan to pay the $2.5 million fine -- which is already past due -- handed down by NBA commissioner Adam Silver along with a lifetime ban from the NBA.
Blecher concluded the letter by stating that the controversy "will be adjudicated" and informed him that "we reject your demand for payment," in response to a letter from Buchanan dated May 14 telling Sterling that he must pay the fine.
Blecher then went on to highlight two legal reasons in his client's defense.
First (by referencing Article 35 of the NBA constitution, which governs players' misconduct and several other provisions), that Sterling's alleged racist remarks in the audio recordings obtained by TMZ, as well as his comments about Magic Johnson in an interview with Anderson Cooper this week, do not give rise to unethical conduct or positions adverse to the NBA.
Secondly, that the NBA violated Sterling's "due process rights" in its four-day investigation. However, as Sports Illustrated reported, the NBA is a a private association, not a federal agency or state college, and therefore not required to provide due process rights.
Sterling admitted that he made a "terrible mistake" during his CNN interview on Anderson Cooper 360, which contradicts the letter's claim that he did nothing wrong.
"I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness," he told Cooper. "Am I entitled to one mistake, am I, after 35 years? I mean, I love my league, I love my partners."
Blecher has a history in sports litigation. He was the lead attorney for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in successful antitrust litigation against the NFL regarding the Raiders relocating between Oakland and Los Angeles.
In June 2013, he filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Time Warner Cable subscribers who did not want to be forced to pay for the Laker or Dodger channels without their consent. That suit was dismissed by a state court judge on the grounds that rate regulation is a federal matter, against which he filed an appeal.
Representatives for the NBA and the Clippers organization have yet to respond to a request from The Hollywood Reporter for comment regarding the letter.
Blecher's law office has not yet responded to a request for comment.