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Attorney says forced sale of Clippers could prompt antitrust lawsuit

Donald SterlingAntitrust IssuesNBALos Angeles ClippersMajor League BaseballNew Orleans Pelicans

Cari Grieb, a professor of sports law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, said Clippers owner Donald Sterling has no recourse to fight the lifetime ban issued by the NBA on Tuesday because of language that exists in his franchise agreement with the league.

“The constitution reads it’s binding just like arbitration,” Grieb said.

However, Grieb said she expected Sterling to fight the potential forced sale of his team because the league’s constitution allows expulsion of an owner only under circumstances such as gambling, fraud or an inability to fulfill a contractual obligation to the league.

Full coverage: The Donald Sterling controversy

“Donald Sterling is paying his players,” Grieb said. “There were no economic issues like you saw with the Dodgers and MLB or with the [New Orleans] Hornets in 2010 when the league had to take over the team. So here, a question whether or not the league can really terminate Donald Sterling’s franchise agreement is a question that Donald Sterling is going to litigate.”

Grieb said Sterling could file an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA if he was forced to sell the team for what he believed was less than market value.

“If he’s forced to sell at $575 million and he’s alleging the team is actually worth $300 million more,” Grieb said, “you would then treble the damages and it would be $900 million damages.”

Former New England Patriots owner Bill Sullivan was awarded an $11.5-million settlement in 1996 after claiming in a lawsuit that the NFL had forced the financially troubled owner to sell the team. The suit reportedly cost the league an additional $6 million in legal fees.

Grieb said she anticipated a settlement in any lawsuit brought by Sterling.

“Antitrust cases can go on for years but I don’t think this is going to go to trial,” Grieb said. “I think there’s going to be a settlement unless Donald Sterling is so disconnected from reality that he just wants to spend a sum of money.”

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