TIME NBA

Donald Sterling Withdraws Lawsuit Against the NBA

The NBA banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for "deeply offensive and harmful" racist comments that sparked a national firestorm. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined him a maximum $2.5 million dollars and called on other owners to force him to sell his team
The NBA banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for "deeply offensive and harmful" racist comments that sparked a national firestorm. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined him a maximum $2.5 million dollars and called on other owners to force him to sell his team ROBYN BECK—AFP/Getty Images

Sterling will no longer pursue his case against NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Sterling's wife Shelly, which accused both parties of fraud and of inflicting "severe emotional damage"

Former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has dropped one of his two lawsuits against the NBA, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Nathan Fenno.

Sterling will no longer pursue his case against NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Sterling’s wife Shelly, which accused both parties of fraud and of inflicting “severe emotional damage” during his forced sale of the team earlier this year. The move frees up Sterling to pursue his other suit against the NBA, an antitrust suit that seeks more than $1 billion in damages.

MORE: NBA Atlantic Division Preview: Can the Raptors repeat as division champs?

“We believe that we can more efficiently address all the issues in our pending federal action,” Sterling’s attorney Bobby Samini told the Times Monday.

The news comes on the same day that a judge threw out the defamation lawsuit of Sterling’s mistress V. Stiviano against Shelly Sterling. Judge Richard Fruin said Stiviano could produce no evidence Shelly Sterling defamed her. Shelly Sterling called Los Angeles Police to Donald’s home earlier this month, indicating there had been a break-in at the home. Responding officers found no evidence of a break-in, however, and instead found Donald Sterling entertaining Stiviano.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NBA

A Microsoft Guy Bought the Clippers So Now iPads Will ‘Probably’ Be Banned

Los Angeles Clippers Fan Festival
The new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Steve Ballmer, addresses the media after being introduced for the first time during the Los Angeles Clippers Fan Festival on August 18, 2014, in Los Angeles Jeff Gross—Getty Images

Expect to see some Surface tablets on the team bench instead

One of Steve Ballmer’s first acts as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers might be to do away with the team’s iPads.

In an interview with Reuters on his plans for the NBA franchise he bought for $2 billion a few months ago, the former Microsoft CEO revealed that the fate of all the Apple devices used by the team’s staff was one of the first things head coach Doc Rivers brought up.

“It’s one of the first things he said to me: ‘We are probably going to get rid of these iPads, aren’t we?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, we probably are.’ But I promised we would do it during the off-season,” Ballmer said.

Not surprising, considering that Ballmer was the CEO of Apple’s major competitor for 14 years and is still the company’s largest individual shareholder. In fact, his loyalty to his old company is so strong that no one in his family is allowed to use an iPhone. So why should his team be any different?

“Most of the Clippers are on Windows, some of the players and coaches are not,” he told Reuters.

If the ban goes ahead, any iPads the team uses for courtside strategy will most likely be replaced by Microsoft’s Surface tablets.

The Clippers, under Ballmer’s ownership, will hope to emerge from the shadow of their former owner Donald Sterling, who was banned from the NBA and forced to sell his team earlier this year after racist comments he made to his then girlfriend became public.

[Reuters]

TIME Race

White Americans Need To Get Used To Being in the Minority

Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six
Mike Zarrilli—Getty Images

Gregory Rodriguez is publisher of Zócalo Public Square, for which he writes the Imperfect Union column.

While it lacks the cartoon-like buffoonery of Donald Sterling’s antics, the Bruce Levenson email affair tells us a whole lot more about the serious racial challenges facing America today

It’s not surprising that the release of Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson’s racially provocative email about his team’s fan base didn’t inspire the same level of public outrage as the secretly recorded rantings of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling. The Levenson story lacked the pathos, the sordid sexual angle, the dysfunctional marriage, and the irrational court maneuverings of a man whose own family trust declared him “mentally incapacitated.”

What’s more, as soon as Levenson knew the 2012 email would be released, he apologized for writing “inflammatory nonsense,” and (perhaps inspired by the $2 billion Clippers sales price) agreed to sell his controlling interest in the team. The Hawks owner’s pre-emptive capitulation deprived us all of the opportunity to engage in yet another all-consuming 24/7 media frenzy in which we could have endlessly chewed over the contents of his infamous email, and their significance.

I am not usually a fan of flooding the zone on the bad behavior of the rich and famous, but this story might have warranted it. Because while it lacks the cartoon-like buffoonery of Donald Sterling’s antics, the Levenson affair tells us a whole lot more about the serious racial challenges facing America today.

If nothing else, Levenson’s email should remind us how old-fashioned racism—the belief in the innate inferiority of members of an entire race—isn’t the only source of racial conflict in America. Levenson didn’t use racist epithets in his email to the team’s general manager. Nor did he articulate a disdain for African-Americans in general. What he did do, however, was express his belief that white fans were uncomfortable being outnumbered by black fans and that, given this assessment, he’d prefer a broader white fan base than a black one.

Did Levenson belittle the importance of African-American basketball fans? Absolutely. But ultimately his comments were about demographics, and the relative status and comfort implicit in being a member of a majority group.

When Americans refer to majority and minority populations, they are generally speaking of the demographics of the nation at large, which has always had a white Protestant majority. But since the founding of the republic, cities, towns, and states across the country have experienced dynamic population shifts that have turned local minorities into majorities and vice versa.

Germans became the majority in Milwaukee in the 1860s. Irish-Americans replaced white Anglo Saxon Protestants as the majority population in Boston around 1900. By 1980, blacks were the new majority in Baltimore. In 2001, whites became a minority in California. All of these demographic changes created intergroup tensions.

Now I’m not arguing that ethnicity represents as deep a divide as race in America. The history of black-white relations reveals levels of cruelty and enmity that even the bitterest tensions between Massachusetts WASPs and the Irish never did. But the principle is the same. The relative size of ethnic and racial groups can influence how members of these groups get along with one another. That’s because in intergroup relations – as in basketball – size matters. The majority status of racial or ethnic groups in any given location carries with it enough benefits to induce competition and tension.

A 2007 study of Illinois residents found that living in a “higher percentage same-race neighborhood” can improve “the emotional well-being” of residents. This research strongly implies that residents of such neighborhoods are seeking emotional as well as economic benefits in togetherness. Presumably, the racial and ethnic kinship of majority group membership shores up identity, protects against discrimination by non-group members, and provides networks and support.

Similarly, a 2004 study out of Germany found that, particularly in the Western world, minority and majority memberships have “distinct effects on a variety of important social psychological phenomena.” Most importantly, newfound minority status can create “a state of uneasy mindfulness” in individuals because they are suddenly more aware of their group identity. Majority members “can take their existence for granted,” the German study concluded—and as a result, “they tend to forget their identity (without losing it).” Minority members, however, can feel obliged to expend greater amounts of emotional energy asserting their identities and making space for themselves in the world.

Perhaps because Levenson himself is Jewish, he seems to implicitly understand the burdens of being in the minority. His email states explicitly that he thinks Southern whites “simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority.” But rather than find ways to make both groups—and ideally others—feel welcome and included in the culture of Hawks fandom, he sided with whites, in part because he had already concluded, as he wrote in the damning email, that “there are simply not enough affluent blacks to build a significant season ticket base.”

The facts of the Levenson affair are very much specific to the universe of basketball fans in Atlanta, Georgia. But because demographers keep telling us that Anglos are projected to become a minority in the United States sometime around 2043, there is a broader, more far-reaching cautionary tale here.

Over the next several decades, how will whites react to losing their majority status in cities and counties across the country? How will prominent business owners and politicians seek to ease possible tensions? Will their long tenure as the historic majority make whites’ transition to minority status all the more difficult?

No, Levenson’s email won’t get the same attention as Donald Sterling’s pathetic rants. But its content and twisted logic speak to a far more endemic problem facing a rapidly changing America.

This piece originally appeared on Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Basketball

Steve Ballmer Now Officially Owns the Clippers

Microsoft Opens New Center In Berlin
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer speaks at the opening of the Microsoft Center Berlin on November 7, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry—Getty Images

The deal closed shortly after a court struck down a challenge from former owner Donald Sterling

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer closed a deal to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, the National Basketball Association announced Tuesday, ending a months-long legal battle to pry the team away from disgraced former owner Donald Sterling. The deal is reportedly worth $2 billion.

“The transaction in which Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers closed today following the entry of an order by a California court confirming the authority of Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, to sell the team,” the NBA said in a brief statement.

In an effort to block the sale of the Clippers, Donald Sterling had challenged his wife Shelley Sterling’s authority to transfer ownership of the team. But that argument was struck down in court, clearing the way for Tuesday’s transaction.

Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life after TMZ leaked recordings of a private conversation in which he is heard urging his girlfriend at the time to avoid associations with black people.

The Los Angeles Times reports that NBA also filed a counterclaim against Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust on Monday, demanding compensation for the “incalculable harm” the controversy has caused to the league as well as the legal costs of the subsequent investigation into Sterling’s conduct.

TIME Basketball

Meet the First Woman to Run a Major U.S. Pro Sports Union

Michele Roberts
An undated photo of Michele Roberts. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher—Flom LLP/AP

Michele Roberts, star Washington D.C. litigator, talks about her humble beginnings, measuring success, and her changed view on race

“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about breaking a glass ceiling,” says Michele Roberts, the new executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). She went ahead and shattered one anyway.

Roberts, who was named union chief early this week, is the first woman to head a players union for the top four U.S. pro sports leagues (basketball, football, baseball, hockey). Given the outsized impact of sports business on American culture, the importance of this appointment can’t be overstated. “Michele will inherently be a role model for girls and women aspiring to leadership roles in all sectors,” says Kathryn Olson, CEO for the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Roberts’ resume was too attractive to turn away. She was a star Washington litigator; Washingtonian magazine once named her the “finest pure trial lawyer in Washington.” Throughout her career, which began in the D.C. public defender’s office in 1980, Roberts showed an uncanny ability to connect with juries, a skill she hopes to transfer to the negotiating table.

“As a trial lawyer, you have to clarify minds, and change minds,” says Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree, who recruited Roberts to the public defender’s office. “She does the homework, and understands the arguments that need to be made. There won’t be a time when someone across the bargaining table doesn’t say, ‘Wow, I learned something.’”

During the interview process for her new high-profile gig, Roberts’ personal history helped form a bond with the players. Like some of them, she came from humble beginnings. “She could identify with us,” says Roger Mason Jr., NBPA vice president. Roberts was raised in a South Bronx housing project, and became interested in the law after seeing her older brother’s friends get sent to jail. Often, her mother told her, they couldn’t afford good representation, and it cost them.

“I’m not going to say I was proud to be poor – nobody believes that,” says Roberts. “But I’m proud that my background guided my life.” She still keeps in touch with three children – all named after her – of acquitted clients from her public defender days.

Roberts attended a prep school in the New York City suburbs, and encountered the kind of racism that was all too common at the time. “Many people hadn’t had any contact with black people,” Roberts says during a Tuesday telephone interview from Las Vegas, where the announcement of her appointment was made. “They weren’t necessarily evil, just ignorant.”

For years, this experience framed her worldview. By 1988, she was leading the trial division of the public defender’s office, and the Washington Post magazine ran an extensive profile on her. She said in that story: “I liked school, and all I wanted to do was go to school, finish up and go to college. And then I went to prep school and met these creatures: The students and some of the professors were just blatant racists. And I didn’t know anything about that before I came there. I became more aggressive in my studies, because I refused to let any of these white folks think that I was stupid. It probably has some impact on how I behave in court. Most of my opponents are white, and there’s no question that I’m more aggressive when I’m dealing with them. I am immediately suspicious of white people. I just assume, for better or worse, that they have preconceived notions about the intelligence of black people. Thankfully, I am often proved wrong, at least by people in this office.”

When asked about that comment today, Roberts doesn’t run from it: she calls it her “genuine” feeling at the time, over 25 years ago. But after working in private practice, and at prestigious white-collar firms, since those days — and while further removed from her high school experience — Roberts says her views have “evolved.” She is far from “suspicious” of white people. “The very, very goods news is that’s no longer how I see the world,” says Roberts. “And I’m happy to say that.”

She’s also delighted that the players who hired her were blind to gender. “The only question in my mind, really, was, ‘Were they unwilling to give me a chance because I was a woman?’” Roberts says. “We had so many intelligent conversations about this issue. What’s most impressive to me is, once they saw my accomplishments and the value I can add, that didn’t stop them from making the offer, even while others may have predicted otherwise.”

Roberts is used to winning, and during the last round of negotiations between the NBA and its players, the union fell short. In the collective bargaining agreement that ended the 2011 lockout, the players’ share of basketball-related income declined, from 57% to 50%. Maximum guaranteed contracts were shortened, and harsher penalties levied on teams that exceeded the salary cap. Former executive Billy Hunter was fired in February 2013, after an investigation revealed questionable business practices.

With Roberts now at the helm, the union is ready to look forward. “This is not going to be Billy Hunter vs. the NBA,” says Roberts. “This is Michele Roberts and a team of gladiators. I don’t tout that I have some magic formula. That would be a recipe for disaster.” Roberts’ competitive flair has also impressed the players. (During her public defender days, she almost got a black belt in taekwondo. “But then I had to fight two 16-year-old girls at the same time,” Roberts says. “They beat the hell out of me.”)

“I understand that there’s going to be some level of winning and losing in any big negotiation,” she says. “In the end, I want my clients to be happy. If my clients got the best deal they could under the circumstances, I would consider it a win. I would consider it a catastrophe – and it never would happen – if my clients felt shortchanged in a negotiation.”

Both players and owners can opt out of the current deal in 2017. Although Roberts is not ready to talk specific strategies and priorities during her first full day on the job, it’s not difficult to read the signals — more than likely, the players will exercise that right. “When we speak about value, of course we feel we should be getting more,” says Mason Jr. If a work stoppage were to follow, both Roberts and NBA commissioner Adam Silver, whose popularity has soared since he took a hard line against Donald Sterling, will take their hits. Fans rarely seep themselves in the mind-numbing economic details. They just want to see basketball.

For now, Roberts – a lifelong hoops fan – is still riding high. “When I got up this morning, I giggled out loud,” says Roberts. “It was still true. I got the job.” And she does feel some weight of history. “I have two nieces that I worship,” says Roberts, who has never married. “And the pride I feel when I hear how proud they are of me is tremendous. It’s important for women to break barriers. But I don’t wake up and say, ‘Let’s break some barriers today.’ I wake up and say, ‘What do I have to do to best serve my client?’ And if I happen to break some barriers along the way, God bless me.”

TIME Basketball

Judge Rules Against Donald Sterling’s Move to Block Clippers Sale

Donald Sterling
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watches the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles on Dec. 19, 2011. Danny Moloshok—AP

Clippers sale to continue

A judge has ruled against Donald Sterling’s attempt to block the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Judge Michael Levanas sided with Donald Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, who negotiated the deal and pursued the court’s approval of the sale, after the NBA fined her husband $2.5 million and banned him from the sport for life for making racist comments, the Associated Press reports.

Shelly Sterling also removed her husband from the family trust following two doctors’ opinions that he had Alzheimer’s disease and was unfit to make legal decisions. Donald Sterling claims he was manipulated and “blindsided” by the medical evaluations and had another doctor attest to his mental competency. He is expected to continue to fight the sale, as he has previously vowed.

[AP]

TIME Basketball

Clippers CEO: Doc Rivers Will Quit as Coach if Sterling Stays

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers talks during a press conference prior to a game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center, in Los Angeles, on April 29, 2014 Kelvin Kuo—USA Today Sports/Reuters

Interim Clippers CEO Richard Parsons described the possible departure of Doc Rivers as "a disaster"

Doc Rivers, coach of the L.A. Clippers, will leave if Donald Sterling remains owner, according to interim Clippers CEO Richard Parsons.

Parsons’ comments were made as he testified in a court case that will determine whether Sterling’s estranged wife Shelly Sterling had the right to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.

Donald Sterling faced NBA banishment after he made racist statements in April this year.

“Doc is troubled by this maybe more so than anybody else,” said Parsons. “If Mr. Sterling continues as owner, he does not want to continue as coach.”

Doc Rivers, who has coached the Clippers for just over a year, has been key in trying to sustain calm within the team’s camp.

“If Doc were to leave, that would be a disaster,” said Parsons. “Doc is the father figure, the one who leads.”

In a related development, Donald Sterling filed a new lawsuit on Tuesday against Shelly Sterling and the NBA commissioner Adam Silver. He is seeking damages for their allegedly defrauding him, violating corporate law and attempting to sell the Clippers.

TIME NBA

Donald Sterling and Steve Ballmer Meet for the First Time, Unproductively

A supporter holds a photo cutout of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling while standing in line for the NBA Playoff game 5 between Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles
A supporter holds a photo cutout of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling while standing in line for the NBA Playoff game 5 between Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles on April 29, 2014. Mario Anzuoni— Reuters

No progress was made on Ballmer's bid to buy the L.A. Clippers, but ESPN reports it was otherwise a "friendly conversation."

It was a private meeting between two men very recently and very publicly ushered from power: one the erstwhile leader of a once iconic tech company whose stock prices swiftly rebounded upon news of his resignation, the other the former owner of a basketball team whose departure from it only parenthetically had anything to do with basketball (in that his apparently racist vitriol was targeted at, well, people the color of some of his basketball players).

The latter, Donald Sterling, was banned from the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the remainder of his life after TMZ leaked a recording of some comments he made to his girlfriend V. Stiviano, concerning her friendship with black people. He’s consequently in the throes of selling the Los Angeles Clippers to the former, ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who stepped down from the company last year after thirteen tumultuous years at the helm, marked by the surge of the Apple Empire and the ultimate marking of his once-eminent firm as a brand that just wasn’t cool anymore. When all else fails, one supposes, buy a basketball team; Ballmer successfully made a bid of $2 billion to buy the Clippers within a month of the Sterling controversy.

The two men met at Sterling’s Beverly Hills home to negotiate the sale of the Clippers franchise together with Sterling’s wife Shelly. And while the crew reached no definitive settlement, ESPN reports that it was otherwise a perfectly pleasant conversation, considering Sterling’s notorious obstinacy on the matter.

It’s a trickier deal than just writing a check. Two years after Sterling bought the team in 1979, he granted co-ownership rights to Shelly, from whom he has been estranged since December 2012. Donald is banned from the NBA; Shelly is not. The NBA briefly considered snatching all license of ownership from the entire Sterling clan — their son-in-law, Eric Miller, has served as the Clippers’ “director of basketball administration” — but not before Shelly arranged the sale to Ballmer in late May. Donald condemned her actions, and a day later sued the NBA for $1 billion.

He’d drop the suit all of three days later, though he has since called his wife of 59 years a “pig.”

The warring couple met on Sunday to finally discuss business, two days before Shelly was to testify in the civil case between them over whether or not she was justified in her negotiations with Ballmer (she’ll be in court on Tuesday in Los Angeles). After a three hour conversation concerning all the tumult of the last few months — oh, to be a fly on that wall — the two invited Ballmer to come over the next day to further address the matter of the Clippers’ sale, which was supposed to have been finalized a week ago. It’s the first time the two men met in person to talk about the deal.

The NBA, meanwhile, twiddles its thumbs and waits. It’s widely assumed Ballmer will ultimately take the reins from the Sterlings, but if nothing’s certain by September 15, the league has the option to take matters into its own hands and sell the team itself, since the 2014-15 season will begin just six weeks later.

TIME NBA

Donald Sterling’s Lawyer Says Former Clippers Owner Is Mentally Competent

Donald Sterling
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watches the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles on Dec. 19, 2011. Danny Moloshok—AP

Sterling's estranged wife begs to differ

The lawyer of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was banned from the NBA for life in April, said his client is mentally competent, according to a recent medical evaluation.

Maxwell Blecher said Dr. Jeffrey Cummings examined Donald Sterling and found him to be mentally sound, though Sterling does have some impairment common for his age, USA Today reports.

The exam results challenge the opinions of two doctors who found him mentally unfit in examinations that Sterling’s estranged wife Shelly Sterling helped coordinate.

Donald Sterling’s lawyers allege in papers filed Monday that she “blindsided” her husband in facilitating the two doctors’ exams and used the opinions to remove him from the Sterling Family Trust in order to sell the Clippers team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Cummings could become a witness in the trial.

“Donald should have been properly informed that the doctors were evaluating his legal capacity for purposes of determining his ability to continue to serve as Co-Trustee of the Sterling Family Trust, a position he had held continuously for many years,” reads the brief.

The lawyers of Shelly Sterling have denied the allegations.

[USA Today]

TIME NBA

Former Intern Sues Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling

Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano
Donald Sterling watches the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles on Dec. 19, 2011 Danny Moloshok—AP

The intern says the team never paid him for his work

A former intern for the Los Angeles Clippers is suing both the team and its owners for allegedly violating labor laws by not paying its interns, according to a federal class action lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

Frank Cooper says the Sterling Family Trust never paid him for the two months of work he did in the fan relations department, the Associated Press reports. Cooper says he worked 40 to 50 hours per week, calling season ticket holders and organizing basketball clinics. Cooper is suing disgraced team owner Donald Sterling and the Clippers organization for back pay, damages and attorney fees, according to the AP.

Sterling is currently embroiled in controversy over racist comments he made that were caught on tape. He has been banned from the NBA, but maintains that he will sue the league before he’s forced to sell the team. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has agreed to buy the team for $2 billion.

[AP]

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