Date
25 September 2017
A protester sends a message outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles before a Clippers playoff game in April. Photo: Reuters.
A protester sends a message outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles before a Clippers playoff game in April. Photo: Reuters.

No deal: Donald Sterling back on the offensive

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has decided to play hardball after all and sue rather than sell his NBA basketball team to former Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer.

Sterling was banned for life from the NBA and fined US$2.5 million in April after a recording surfaced of him making racist remarks to a girlfriend, telling her not to bring black people to games.  

The NBA said he had to go and his wife Shelly then negotiated a record-breaking US$2 billion sale of the Clippers to Ballmer. As part of the deal her husband had to bench a US$1 billion federal lawsuit against the NBA.

But on Monday, Sterling wasn’t having any of it; his lawyer said the lawsuit is back on.

The suit claims the NBA violated Sterling’s constitutional rights by basing its decision on an “illegal” recording. It also says the basketball association is violating antitrust laws by forcing a sale.

The burning issue for Sterling seems to be that NBA won’t go back on its lifetime ban and fine.

But even if Sterling wins the case, gets to keep the Clippers and is allowed back on the court, it’s hard to see how it could be anything other than a hollow victory. The game is already lost. Who would want to play for or support an owner who expresses such views about a community of people?

Sure, Los Angeles is a city of second acts but it all turns on a genuine show of contrition.

Sterling said in a statement to NBC News that he is extremely sorry for the hurtful statements he made privately, saying he made the statements “in anger and out of jealousy all in the context of a private conversation”. But the apology focuses on the private being made public and offers little reflection on why those views might have been so offensive in the first place.

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