Per SI.com, Donald Sterling has reportedly hired well-known antitrust litigator Maxwell Blecher, "who has written a letter to NBA executive vice president and general counsel Rick Buchanan threatening to sue the NBA. The letter, sources tell SI.com, claims that Sterling has done nothing wrong and that "no punishment is warranted" for Sterling."
The letter also indicates that Sterling will not pay the $2.5 million fine levied on him by NBA commissioner Donald Sterling, and that the controversy around Sterling "will be abjudicated."
"We reject your demand for payment," the letter states simply -- leading into two potential legal defenses for Sterling laid out by Michael McCann of SI.com:
First, Blecher claims that Sterling has not violated any article of the NBA constitution. The letter curiously references Article 35, which governs players' misconduct, and several other provisions. The NBA is expected to argue that Sterling violated Article 13(d), among other provisions. Article 13 (d) bars owners from violating contractual obligations, including the obligation that owners no engage in unethical conduct or take positions adverse to the NBA. Blecher does not explain how he intends to prove Sterling's racist remarks captured on the secret recording -- followed by Sterling's incendiary remarks to Anderson Cooper about Magic Johnson -- do not give rise to unethical conduct or positions adverse to the NBA.
Second, Blecher argues that Sterling's "due process rights" have been violated by the NBA. A due process claim may sound superficially reasonable. After all, Sterling was banned permanently from the NBA after a mere four-day investigation, without any formal proceedings. If the NBA were a federal agency or a state college, Sterling might have a good argument, as those are public entities that must provide safeguards found under the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions. The problem for Sterling is that the NBA is a private association and is not required to provide due process rights. Sterling, moreover, contractually assented to the NBA's system of justice through various contracts, including his franchise agreement to purchase the Clippers and the joint venture agreement, which indicates the NBA has binding authority over the teams.
Any potential lawsuit from Sterling will face a steep battle in court, as by nature of being an NBA owner, he is legally bound to all aspects of the NBA's justice system.
We will have more on this developing story as more information is made available.
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