UPDATE 11:53 pm: As you would expect (and as hinted at below), Shelly Sterling’s attorneys do not see things the same way as the NBA. Shocking.
Shelly’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, released this statement in response, via the Los Angeles Times.
“We do not agree with the league’s self-serving interpretation of its constitution, its application to Shelly Sterling or its validity under these unique circumstances,” he said. “We live in a nation of laws. California law and the United States Constitution trump any such interpretation.”
The NBA would say “you joined a select club and signed into the laws of our business when you did, and those laws say we can vote you out of the club if you’re bad for business.
In America we adjudicate our differences through an adversarial system — and the Sterlings love to be adversarial. They have their ego wrapped up in owning this team, they have financial incentive to drag this out, and they have the money to pay an army of lawyers to fight this. So they will. (They say they are doing it separately, you can believe that if you want, I think this is more coordinated than that.)
I’m not an attorney so I’m not going to try to interpret what the NBA constitution says here — get three lawyers to read the document and you’ll get six opinions on it. The bottom line is it’s not that cut and dried and the courts are going to have to sort this out. Your tax dollars at work!
The NBA isn’t having that.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass in a statement:
Under the NBA Constitution, if a controlling owner’s interest is terminated by a 3/4 vote, all other team owners’ interests are automatically terminated as well. It doesn’t matter whether the owners are related as is the case here. These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team.
I am not privy to the agreement the Sterlings – or just Donald – signed, but if it’s as clearly worded as the NBA indicates, this sounds like case closed.
But the league has incentive to strong-play its hand. The players want Shelly out, and the other owners probably do too.
The agreement could be more ambiguous than the league is saying. Remember, this is just one interpretation of the agreement. Shelly Sterling’s lawyer – depending on the word – could have another.