Donald Sterling has proved that he is the bigger man, as a new report has the embattled LA Clippers owner finally agreeing to sell his franchise to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a paltry $2 billion and at the same time declining to sue the NBA for an additional $1 billion for besmirching his good name.
The news came through by way of ESPN, which received confirmation from Sterling’s lawyer via email. This is the same lawyer that had earlier said that Sterling would sue the NBA for $1 billion, claiming that the league had invaded Sterling’s constitutional rights, violated antitrust laws, breached its fiduciary duty, breached contract, and done, like, 20 other bad things.
That suit was filed before news broke that Sterling’s wife Shelly had taken time away from verifying the races of her tenants in order to broker a deal with Steve Ballmer. Apparently, the wound dealt to Sterling by the NBA’s treachery could only be bound with 2.5 billion little green bandages.
“I’m okay, I’m okay,” Sterling told an interviewer on Tuesday. “Is the NBA okay? I’m not sure about that. Is [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver okay? I’m sure he’s okay.”
Well, Donald, so long as everybody is okay.
Sterling’s sudden okayness will clear the way for Ballmer to complete his purchase of the team and for tons of people to suddenly realize that they can make a Clippy-Clippers reference. Others will begin more openly speculating on when Ballmer might uproot Sterling’s Clippers from Los Angeles and plant them in some organic compost in Seattle. Ballmer maintains that no such deal is in the works, but – as we’ve explored previously – that is also just the sort of thing that team buyers say to placate fans.
With Sterling’s departure, the NBA will lose one of the more visible team owners that it always wished wasn’t so visible. Sterling bought the team for a few million dollars decades ago, and he’s been in the limelight since. One week it was Sterling and sexual harassment suits, the next it was Donald and housing discrimination suits alleging racism. The next month, it might be employee discrimination suits alleging that Sterling would call African-American players “poor black boys” and wonder why he should give them more money. That’s the sort of antebellum “ownership” mindset that one doesn’t see much in the NBA any more, perhaps because other owners know better than to get caught saying such on tape.