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Sterling Expected To Fight Forced Sale Of LA Clippers


The Donald Sterling case is far from over. Yes, the NBA has banned the L.A. Clippers' owner for life and the pro-basketball playoffs have continued. But Sterling has not revealed what he will do after being banned from the league for making racist remarks. He is expected to fight the forced sale of his team and that could have significant consequences.

NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: At this point, without a Donald Sterling public statement on the way forward, we are forced to turn to those he's met in private, such as L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who recounted his recent meeting with Sterling, on CBS's "Face the Nation."

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Well, I think that he thinks that he's going to be the owner for a long time. That he wants to stay the owner. And I said this will be a long protracted fight.

GOLDMAN: A fight against the forced sale of his team could come in an anti-trust lawsuit claiming restraint of competition by the 29 other owners. A fight of any length could put financial pressure on the clippers. Already has.

GABE FELDMAN: That pressure has come from some sponsors who've withdrawn.

GOLDMAN: Tulane Sports Law Professor Gabe Feldman.

FELDMAN: And it may be that his team has become so unpopular because of his actions, that he'll start to bleed money.

GOLDMAN: And maybe lose players. Roger Mason, Jr. is the first vice president of the NBPA, the National Basketball Player's Association. He says while the union understands there's a process involved, players want a quick and immediate exchange of ownership. How quick and immediate? Mason says there's not a specific timetable.

ROGER MASON, JR.: I do know that it will be a situation that we will not be happy with, if it's not done by the start of next season. And really the start of free agency, to me, would be very difficult for any player to want to sign in Los Angeles with the current ownership still in place.

GOLDMAN: Free agency starts July 1st. And what about the players already on the Clippers' roster? Some were asking whether a player could in fact void a contract and cite a hostile work environment or demand free agency.

JR.: Those are things that I've been talking to the executive committee about.

GOLDMAN: For now the player's goal is to get Sterling out. But sports business consultant Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp Limited, says they need to realize they've already won.

MARC GANIS: Donald Sterling is no longer a part of the NBA. He has been banned from the league for life. Period. End of story. That is not appeal-able.

GOLDMAN: And if Sterling held on to his ownership, Ganis says he'd be an exiled owner.

GANIS: All he would have is a share of profits to be distributed, if the CEO of the team decided to distribute those profits - which he's going to get now anyway if the team gets sold.

GOLDMAN: If it does, Donald Sterling could make a lot of money off a team he bought for $12.5 million in 1981. The latest valuation, by Forbes, had the Clippers worth 575 million. But there are several reasons why that reportedly could grow to a billion. The Clippers are a star-studded team that looked very much like a championship contender, in their blowout win over Oklahoma City on Monday.

L.A. is a bountiful market. The Clippers local TV deal expires in two years. Ganis says a new deal could fetch at least double the 25-to-30 million the current one generates per year. Considering that, and the fact that successful litigation by Sterling will lead to, in Ganis's words, a hollow victory, Ganis believes the situation screams for a negotiated settlement among reasonable people.

Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on