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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Federal Judge Dismisses Sterling Suit Against NBA

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed Donald's Sterling's antitrust and constitutional claims relating to the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, finding that Sterling could not support his case.

Sterling claimed in his lawsuit that he could have secured a higher price for the Clippers if not for a "forced sale." As a consequence, he suffered $600 million in damages, said his complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

In a 13-page ruling, Judge Fernando Olguin recounted the history of Sterling's racial comments and the media's involvement in his downfall. He then found that Sterling had suffered no antitrust injury because he was paid a fair price for the Clippers after a sale arranged by Sterling's wife Rochelle.

"The court is skeptical that Sterling suffered any injury at all, let alone an antitrust injury," wrote Olguin.

He found that contrary to Sterling's contention that Rochelle is an "inexperienced business person," she had retained valuation experts and conducted an auction that produced bids of $1.2 billion, $1.6 billion, and $2 billion.

"In other words, Rochelle obtained the highest price ever paid for an NBA team," wrote the judge. "Indeed, even Rochelle's lowest bid of $1.2 billion was more than twice the $550 million paid for the Milwaukee Bucks in early 2014 which, at that time, was the highest price paid for an NBA team."

Olguin also threw out Sterling's claim that the sale had violated his due process rights under the U.S. Constitution, finding the NBA had not deprived him of a constitutionally protected interest.

Donald Sterling lost his NBA team after he made racist comments in a taped conversation with his girlfriend V. Stiviano that was then leaked to TMZ. During the conversation, Sterling told Stiviano not to bring black men to Clippers games.

In the public fallout, the NBA banned Sterling from the association, levied a $2.5 million fine against him and barred him from attending NBA games.

Sterling sued the NBA over its use of what he described in court papers as the illegal recording of a private and confidential conversation. He also claimed that the NBA's actions against him were unlawful.

The judge noted that Sterling then appeared on television in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, admitted making the racially offensive statements in the recording and acknowledged the harm he had caused.

"However, he also made additional offensive and discriminatory statements about African-Americans during the interview," the judge wrote. The judge also pointed to evidence submitted by the NBA in the form a survey of 500 Clippers fans. The suvey "confirmed that fan support for the Clippers would erode dramatically if Mr. Sterling did not sell the team."

In a statement, Rochelle's attorney Pierce O'Donnell said the ruling brought a "merciful end" to the litigation.

"With all of his other lawsuits dismissed, this is the final chapter," O'Donnell said. "Ironically, Donald, in defeat, is the beneficiary of $2 billion."

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