Sterling to NBA: Stuff Your $2.5M Fine

Lawyer's letter signals that he plans to go down fighting

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 16, 2014 6:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – It looks like Donald Sterling isn't going down without a fight. The embattled LA Clippers owner has hired a prominent antitrust lawyer and informed the NBA that he has no intention of paying a $2.5 million fine imposed for making racist remarks, sources tell Sports Illustrated and USA Today. "We reject your demand for payment," the lawyer's letter informs the league per the sources; it claims "no punishment is warranted" because Sterling has done nothing wrong and says his "due process rights" have been violated. (SI notes that latter claim is somewhat backed up by the NBA's quickie 4-day investigation, but that as a private association it has no obligation to provide due-process rights.) The deadline for paying the fine actually came and went earlier this week.

The letter doesn't mention the potential forced sale of the Clippers, sources say, but such letters are generally considered a precursor to a lawsuit and Sterling is known for his litigious tactics, reports the New York Times. Any lawsuit, however, will be an uphill struggle for Sterling, since he is contractually bound to follow the NBA's system of justice and his claim he has done nothing wrong is at odds with his admission of a "terrible, terrible mistake" in a CNN interview. If he doesn't pay the fine and loses the team, the NBA could withhold $2.5 million, plus interest, from the sale, SI notes. (In the same interview, Sterling launched a bizarre attack on Magic Johnson for getting "those AIDS.")

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling looks on during a game against the Lakers.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling looks on during a game against the Lakers.   (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
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