The Clippers legal circus heads to court in Los Angeles today as Shelly Sterling asks a judge to confirm that her medical experts were correct in pronouncing husband Donald Sterling incapacitated. It's the key to her agreement to sell the team to billionaire Steve Ballmer, something that was thought to be a done deal and approved by Mr. Sterling himself.
In a reversal of his statements made after the Clippers sale to Ballmer deal was agreed to, while Donald Sterling was trying to make nice and seem settled with what had just occurred, he decided to keep pressing the issue and allow his lawsuit against the NBA to proceed.
In a blistering letter published yesterday, Donald Sterling summed up his case quite clearly. In part it reads: "I was brought up in America and educated to believe that every citizen has a right to privacy and right to freedom of speech. I feel that every American has to protect those rights and that the NBA should not be allowed to take away those rights."
Donald went on to air his grievances against the NBA, when it fact, it will be his wife's attorneys working the other side of the case.
Because Mrs. Sterling has an agreement with the NBA to indemnify and hold it harmless from claims or judgments against it that arise from challenges like this, it is not a financial issue for the league at the present time. Shelly will stand in the shoes of the NBA, fighting her estranged husband, but today the NBA is just a spectator.
Today's fight takes place in front of a probate court judge because the immediate concern is to demonstrate Mrs. Sterling has the right to have taken the matter into her own hands after medical experts made their determination. Shelly has succeeded in ingratiating herself to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, to the extent that she will still be welcomed at Clipper games and have a part in some Clippers related charity after everyone signs on the dotted line. The commish told media this week that he never had a beef with Shirley and it is why she was never banned from the league and its games.
It has been suggested by legal-sports analysts that as is typical of the Sterlings, it's all about the money and in this case, a ton of it. Selling the team trips the wire on capital gains taxes and there is enough at stake for Donald to consider this important. Apparently it is not to Shelly.
Shelly Sterling wants a declaration that the medical opinions received are accurate. Donald Sterling will seek the right to get independent evaluations performed in an attempt to cast doubt on what has already taken place. One could ask if he was cognizant of being examined by the previous physicians and if so, was he aware of their opinion.
Hard to argue you weren't aware of what the doctors were doing or their ultimate diagnosis if the goal is to assert capacity to attend to day-to-day matters. But the Sterlings have never avoided legal battles and used them as weapons against those they sought to vanquish. With the two on opposite sides, knowing full well the tactics used by the other, this struggle could be called a clash of titans.
Unfortunately it isn't the kind turned into films for the summertime popcorn extravaganza kind. Then again, this is Los Angeles, and there must be someone wondering if it would make a good movie. To be continued...