Law Professor: Sterling Ruling Unprecedented but on Solid Ground

Thursday, 01 May 2014 08:35 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Forcing Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers is unprecedented and it remains to be seen how Sterling responds to the ruling by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, says Matt Mitten, Director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University Law School.

"It is an unprecedented situation — the forced sale of a professional sports team and it's really going to depend upon how we construe the NBA constitution of bylaws because Mr. Sterling is a party to an agreement among all the other club owners," Mitten told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV.

However, Mitten said that "Commissioner Silver is on fairly solid ground regarding the fine and the lifetime suspension . . . . I think it was very necessary for him to take some swift decisive action."

Whether or not Sterling decides to fight the ruling will "depend upon what his motivation is at this point" — money or principle?

If he is "economically motivated, it might make good sense to sell the franchise because the longer he holds onto it, he's got sponsors that aren't going to want to sponsor the club, you're going to have fans that aren't going to want to go to games, players may refuse to play. So it is in his economic interest to sell the club."

However, "it just depends if he wants to try to argue as a matter of principle that there isn't a ground to require him to sell his franchise."

The Marquette law professor said that it's an important reminder that public figures need to "be very careful about what you say even in a private setting because in today's well-connected world, anything basically can go viral."

Sterling was banned for life by NBA Commissioner Silver on Tuesday, after an audio recording was released of Sterling making racist statements in a private conversation.


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