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Donald Sterling Sues NBA for $1 Billion in Damages

Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, according to USA Today. The lawsuit claims breach of contract and violating his constitutional rights after banning him last month for his racial comments.

The lawsuit is asking for $1 billion in damages, the end of his lifetime ban and the removal of the $2.5 million fine imposed by the NBA. The lawsuit also asks for Andy Roeser (former team president) being reinstated, the removal of interim CEO Richard Parsons and the termination of the NBA’s plan to have the family sell the team.

On Friday, the NBA announced that it had a binding agreement with Shelly Sterling to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The sale needs to be approved by the Board of Governors of the NBA.

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“The NBA will withdraw its pending charge to terminate the Sterlings’ ownership of the team,” the NBA said in a statement. “Because of the binding agreement to sell the team, the NBA termination hearing that had been scheduled for June 3 in New York City has now been cancelled. Mrs. Sterling and the (Sterling Family) Trust also agreed not to sue the NBA and to indemnify the NBA against lawsuits from others, including from Donald Sterling.”

Should Donald sue the league, Shelly Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust might have to cover the expenses of the NBA. The couple jointly owns the trust, which owns the Clippers.

“If Mrs. Sterling and the Trust specifically agree to indemnify the NBA against lawsuits from others, including Donald Sterling, then, yes, if Donald Sterling sues the NBA over the sale (as distinguished from other types of claims), it would appear that Mrs. Sterling and the Trust would be agreeing to cover the NBA with money from the trust and/or her own personal funds,” said Perrie Weiner, an attorney in Los Angeles. Weiner is not involved with the case.

Rick Buchanan, the NBA Executive Vice President and General Counsel, said, “Among other infirmities, there was no `forced sale’ of his team by the NBA – which means his antitrust and conversion claims are completely invalid. Since it was his wife Shelly Sterling, and not the NBA, that has entered into an agreement to sell the Clippers, Mr. Sterling is complaining about a set of facts that doesn’t even exist.”

The agreement between Sterling and Ballmer is for $2 billion and she did not need approval from Donald because he was determined to be mentally unfit as a trustee in the family’s trust.

Donald claims that his constitutional rights were violated when an illegally recorded conversation was used by the NBA to ban him and fine him the $2.5 million. The lawsuit states that even if the recording violates the NBA bylaws and the league’s constitution, the actions by Silver went beyond permissible punishment.

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