Donald Sterling has decided against supporting the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers that his wife, Shelly, negotiated and will now sue the NBA along with commissioner Adam Silver according to reports on June 10. Sterling’s reversal of course comes just five days after pledging that he would permit the record $2 billion sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
According to reports, Sterling thought the NBA would cancel both his lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine in exchange for his acquiescence. This is despite widespread reporting that no such concessions would be made by the NBA.
"I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights," Sterling said in a letter circulated widely among those involved in the sale and obtained by ESPN.com. "While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled.
Max Belcher, Sterling’s attorney, also said that Donald Sterling would be challenging wife Shelly Sterling's actions and negotiation of the sale in probate court on June 11. However, no action had been taken as of June 10.
Sterling's continued in his June 9, letter.
"From the onset, I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers," he said in the letter. "I believe that Adam Silver acted in haste by illegally ordering the forced sale of the Clippers, banning me for life from the NBA and imposing the fine. Adam Silver's conduct in doing so without conducting any real investigation was wrong.
"The action taken by Adam Silver and the NBA constitutes a violation of my rights and fly in the face of the freedoms that are afforded to all Americans."
Meanwhile, Shelly Sterling, Ballmer and the league remain confident the sale will proceed. Donald and Shelly Sterling project to receive about $1.34 billion post-tax from the sale.
Shelly Sterling indemnified the NBA from damages in future lawsuits from her estranged husband as part of the sale agreement with the league. She negotiated the sale as the sole trustee of the Sterling family trust, which owns LA Clippers LLC, after two neurologists had declared Donald Sterling unable to conduct his own business and legal affairs.
As part of the sale, Shelly Sterling remains part of the team as “owner emeritus.” With the title, she gets two floor seats for all home games and five stadium parking spaces. Sterling will also receive three championship rings, if the Clippers win their first title during her life.
The on-again, off-again sale of the Clippers could hurt team next year and years to come depending on how the situation ends up and how quickly it is resolved. The NBAPA, LeBron James, along with several key Clippers – Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan -- has said they wanted Donald Sterling out of the league and there possibly could be boycotts if he remains in control. Furthermore, head coach Doc Rivers had said during the Clippers opening series against the Golden State Warriors that he would take a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether he will return to the team.
The Clippers, who have the No. 28 pick in the 2014 draft, are up against the salary cap. The Clippers have $76.2 million in salaries locked into 12 players if all of the players options are picked up.
The Clippers have decisions to make as Jamal Crawford ($11 million over next two years) and Willie Green ($1.4 million in 2014-15) contracts are not fully guaranteed. Also, Darren Collison ($2.28 million), Danny Granger ($915,243) and Glen Davis ($915,243) hold player options. Hedo Turkoglu and Ryan Hollins will be unrestricted free agents on July 1.