California Judge Rules Against Donald Sterling, Paves Way For Clippers Sale


Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul said last week that if Donald Sterling still owned the team when the season starts in October, he and his fellow players, along with head coach Doc Rivers, would consider a boycott.

It appears now that Paul and the rest of his team won’t have to walk out.

A California probate judge on Monday ruled that Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly, had authority to sell the Clippers, all but paving the way for Shelly Sterling to sell the team to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Shelly Sterling agreed in principle to sell the Clippers to Ballmer weeks after her husband was caught on audio making racist comments about Magic Johnson and other African-Americans. She took the sale to probate court for approval, but Donald Sterling argued that the sale was improper because Shelly Sterling did not have the right to solely sell the team and that he had revoked the trust that owned it. Donald Sterling had authorized Shelly to negotiate a sale but later refused to approve it.

The judge issued preliminary rulings against Donald Sterling on each of the three major questions raised in the case, as the Los Angeles Times’ Nathan Fenno reported Monday:

The third question was most important in the immediate sense, as the judge agreed under California law that the sale constituted “extraordinary circumstances,” meaning that its completion will not remain pending should Donald Sterling appeal the ruling. As Sports Illustrated legal correspondent Michael McCann explained last week, Shelly Sterling’s lawyers argued that keeping Donald around as owner would cause immediate and significant damage to the value of the Clippers and the Sterling trust that owns the team and that it would not fetch the $2 billion Ballmer offered should it go to auction.

The ruling on that question means that Donald Sterling can still appeal, but doing so likely will not have any effect on the sale.

Donald Sterling is still pursuing litigation against the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver over the league’s decision to ban him for life and levy a $2.5 million fine against him in April. But this is no doubt a happy day throughout the NBA, which will now likely manage to get rid of Sterling as an owner without holding a vote to terminate his ownership and put the team up for auction.