Monday’s ruling in a Los Angeles courtroom came like a cool breeze in a miserable heat wave.
Donald Sterling is out, a loser on all counts.
He’s not gone, not by any means, but he is now relegated to the back-burner of the news section, an annoyance who will gradually disappear if we stop paying attention. And that’s exactly what we should do.
A superior court judge not only ruled that the sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion can proceed, it is now appeal-proof. That means no matter what else Donald Sterling tries â and you can be sure he is already planning his next move — he can’t hold up Shelly Sterling’s deal.
For Clippers fans, it must feel like a new day. Coach Doc Rivers won’t quit. His players won’t walk out. The NBA will not have to forcibly push Donald Sterling out the door. The dark cloud he brought over the game will slowly fade.
In his decision, Judge Michael Levanas essentially said Shelly Sterling was within her rights to sell the Clippers to Ballmer after two doctors declared her husband mentally incapacitated. Under the terms of the Sterling Family Trust, that allowed her to sell the team, despite Donald Sterling’s attempt to revoke the trust.
NBA's statement: "We are pleased that the court has affirmed Shelly Sterling’s right to sell the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer…"
There was no "scheme," as Max Blecher, Donald Sterling’s attorney, insisted. Nothing "devious" or "unconscionable," as he told the court.
It was fairly clean, despite the histrionics exhibited by Sterling during his testimony or the pleadings of his lawyer. Shelly Sterling had every right to sell the team, and she did.
It doesn’t mean Sterling is going away. He isn’t. There are already two other suits, one in federal court, another in state court, in which Sterling claims he remains the rightful owner of the team. But with the Clippers sold and no appeal coming, there is nothing to keep the them out of Ballmer’s possession.
Somehow, some way, Sterling will find a way to muck it up. He has already said he will fight to keep the team until his last dying breath. So we can get prepared for a unending filing of suits against anyone he decides is against him â the league, commissioner Adam Silver, Shelly Sterling, maybe even the other owners.
It’s bound to happen. Sterling loves lawsuits the way other 80-year-old billionaires love golf. He would prefer to sit in a courtroom than spend his leisure years sipping wine or enjoying sunsets or cruising the world. If he proves anything, it’s that money doesn’t buy contentment.
The Clippers were his toy, and now that they’ve been taken from him, he will search for ways to make everyone as miserable as he is. If he can’t be happy, no one else will be.
That’s never going to change. But at least the Clippers can move forward knowing the most despised owner in sports will not be signing their checks.