- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Donald Sterling won’t go quietly. Never has before. So even as praise rolls in for NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s forceful decision, the first real test of his leadership may just be beginning.

Barely three months after taking over from David Stern, Silver, a lawyer and longtime league entertainment executive, has to muster a supermajority - 24 of the NBA’s 30 owners - to carry out his threat to force the disgraced Clippers owner to sell the franchise. That’s on top of the unprecedented $2.5 million fine and lifetime ban.

But when Silver was asked, more than once during Tuesday’s news conference whether he has the votes, he didn’t waiver.

“I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners I need to remove him,” Silver said.


No owners said publicly they wouldn’t support the decision, even Mavericks owner Mark Cuban who said Tuesday he agrees with the commissioner 100 percent.

A day earlier, however, Cuban - while criticizing Sterling’s comments as “obviously bigoted, obviously racist” - called it “damn scary” that a precedent could be set.

“Regardless of your background, regardless of the history they have, if we’re taking something somebody said in their home and we’re trying to turn it into something that leads to you being forced to divest property in any way, shape or form, that’s not the United States of America,” Cuban said. “I don’t want to be part of that.”

If Silver has the votes, there’s no choice.

Even a cursory glance at Sterling’s litigious past suggests that while he’s barred from making his case before the league’s Board of Governors, he may drag them into court.

“Anybody can file any claim they want to, but do I believe he has a reasonable chance of succeeding?” said Jeffrey Kessler, probably the savviest sports-law attorney in the country. “I do not.”

Kessler chairs the sports and anti-trust practices group at the firm of Winston & Strawn and has represented the players associations for the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB, as well as Latrell Sprewell and Michael Vick. Though the NBA contract is confidential, it’s a safe bet Kessler has a good grasp on the relevant language.

“I don’t think Mr. Sterling has any basis for a legal claim, period. The decision by Adam Silver is grounded in the NBA’s constitution and its bylaws - which Mr. Sterling agreed to and signed - and any challenge would be considered as an arbitration decision and not by the courts,” he said.

“And the only grounds to challenge an arbitration decision are very narrow, none of which apply here. All that said,” Kessler added, “I’m sure if he’s intent on suing, he could find some lawyer who would assert some claim for him.”

That’s never been a problem for Sterling’s lawyers.

His wife, Rochelle, is suing the woman purportedly heard on tape at the center of the scandal to reclaim at least $1.8 million in cash and gifts that Sterling allegedly provided her. In 2009, he sued a former mistress to reclaim a house he gifted her and lost (she kept the house). The same year, he agreed to a $2.76 million settlement to end a Department of Justice lawsuit alleging discrimination against African- Americans, Latinos and even children at apartment buildings he owned.

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