Tax bill targeting Donald Sterling advances in California Senate

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watches the team play in October 2010.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

A state Senate panel approved legislation Wednesday aimed at preventing embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling from writing off fines levied by the NBA as a business expense on his state income tax returns.

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee advanced the bill, which applies to all sports franchise owners, but Chairwoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis) predicted that it would have trouble becoming law.

“It’s really got an uphill battle,” Wolk said, adding that if the measure makes it to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, “I think it’s going to be a hard one to get a signature on.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has banned Sterling from the league for life and fined him $2.5 million for negative comments he made about African Americans.

Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) said he and Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra introduced the bill because they did not think state tax laws should reward owners of sports franchises for “behaving badly.”


Wolk voted for the bill even though she said she is concerned about singling out one private entity for a change in the tax law that has implications for free-speech rights.

Republican Sens. Steven Knight of Palmdale and Mimi Walters of Irvine did not support the measure for similar reasons.

Walters said Sterling’s comments were “disgusting” but that she was voting against the bill because “when government starts to insert itself in the right to free speech, then we start to have a problem.”

Knight abstained from voting, asking, “If we do this, where do we stop? Do we go to [include] the players. Do we go to the agents?”

AB 877 next goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.