Facing charges June 3 that he damaged the National Basketball Association by making racist comments secretly recorded and broadcast around the planet by Hollywood gossip site TMZ Sports April 26, the 80-year-old embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has little recourse. While he hired experienced Los Angeles anti-trust litigator Maxwell Blecher May 15, Sterling doesn’t face the courts, he faces the NBA’s board of governors operating under a different set of rules. When Sterling bought the Clippers franchise in 1981, he signed off on the NBA constitution, giving him no legal recourse should the league terminate his franchise with cause. “All of these acts provide grounds for termination under several provisions of the NBA constitution and related agreements,” read a statement from the NBA’s Manhattan-based corporate office, giving Sterling two weeks to respond.
Sterling, a California bar licensed attorney, is no shrinking violet when it comes to litigation in his real estate empire where lawsuits are more common than McDonald’s hamburgers. When the secret tape, recorded by his 31-year-old lady-friend V. Stiviano, went viral if was just a matter of time before Sterling paid the ultimate price. Telling “V” to not associate or bring blacks to Clippers games, Sterling offended just about everyone in-and-out of basketball, professional sports and the public at large. Sterling’s words were so offensive, so painful, so hurtful, so disgraceful and so classless, that it demanded an immediate public apology. When Sterling finally got around to apologizing May 12 in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, he ripped Magic Johnson for womanizing and getting “AIDS.” Instead of apologizing unconditionally, Sterling couldn’t contain his ire.
Now Sterling faces his day of reckoning June 3 where at least 75%  of the NBA’s 29 other owners are expected to vote unanimously to evict him from the league. After making matters worse for himself on CNN’s “AC360” ripping Johnson, it should be apparent to just about everyone that Sterling isn’t fit to own an NBA franchise. His inability to follow any script without hurling more insults at Johnson and the African American community demonstrates he lacks the judgment to own an NBA franchise. Sterling’s attorney had little success asking the NBA to delay the vote for three months while he considers his clients legal options. While Sterling’s at liberty to litigate ad infinitum, he can’t stop the NBA from voting him out. His public remarks-though meant to stay private-say more about Sterling’s poor judgment than a clear case of garden-variety racism.
Sterling’s May 12 interview and attempted mea culpa with Cooper displayed a lack of coherency in the octogenarian Los Angeles real estate tycoon. While admitting he was no psychiatrist, Cooper insisted Sterling was indeed lucid at the time of the interview. What Cooper demonstrated was that Sterling was just as easily manipulated as he was with “V” to make him look like a fool. Knowing Sterling poor judgment, it’s surprising that his handlers wouldn’t have vetoed the idea of going on national TV. Saying Sterling was an obvious “wreck,” former director of Los Angeles NAACP chapter head Leon Jenkins found Sterling “very distraught” after ripping Magic Johnson to Cooper on national TV. “Once you got off focus and started talking about Magic Johnson, whatever reconsideration some people would have, you kind of lost it,” Jenkins told Sterling after the interview.
Jenkins had slated Sterling to receive the NAACP’s lifetime achievement award before the secret recording hit the media. For whatever reasons, Jenkins was forced to resign his post once Sterling’s racist rant surfaced. Jenkins wanted to honor Sterling for giving a lifetime endowment to minorities at Los Angeles Southwest College, a traditionally black community college. Sterling has given away thousands of Clippers tickets to nonprofit groups serving the black community. “I thought if he was going top give a lifetime endowment, he should get a lifetime award,” said Jenkins, lamenting the fact he was forced to resign. It’s ironic that Sterling asked the NBA and public to forgive his “one mistake in 35 years,” while, simultaneously, going on a tirade about Magic Johnson. Going off on Magic showed just how far Sterling is gone from any attachment to reality and common sense.
Sterling faces permanent eviction from the NBA June 3. While Sterling’s fellow owners feel for the eccentric octogenarian, they’re compelled to protect the league that came dangerously close to a walkout during the NBA playoffs. Sterling’s hateful words cut the predominantly African American sport to the quick, burdening his own team that worked hard toward its goal of winning an NBA championship. When the Clippers were finally dispatched by the Oklahoma City Thunder May 16 in the second round, it was clear that Coach Doc. Rivers’ finely oiled machine malfunctioned. Sterling has no one to blame but himself for self-destructing, losing the privilege of owning an NBA franchise. No team owner can allow one of their own to damage the NBA brand and disgrace the sport without draconic consequences. Sterling now finds out the hard way that money isn’t everything.