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Sterling fighting to keep Clippers

Donald Sterling has backed off a deal to sell the Los Angeles Clippers (NBA) to Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and says he’ll sue to keep the team.

In a statement released last night, Sterling said he was initiating a lawsuit to keep the team, despite an agreement with his wife to sell the franchise for $2 billion to Ballmer. The lawsuit came about after the NBA took action to strip the team from Sterling, banning him from the game and fining him $2.5 million for racially charged statements that eventually became public. From USA Today:

The lawsuit alleges the league violated his constitutional rights by relying on information from an “illegal” recording that publicized racist remarks he made to a girlfriend. It also said the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling $2.5 million and that it violated antitrust laws by trying to force a sale.

“I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights,” Donald Sterling said. “While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled. I love the team and have dedicated 33 years of my life to the organization. I intend to fight to keep the team.”

Of course, this is a load of hooey. Sterling doesn’t have a constitutional right to own an NBA team, nor do his constitutional rights extend to the private business known as the NBA. And there’s little doubt that the NBA has the right to do basically whatever it wants: every NBA owner enters the league after signing an agreement to never sue the league and to abide by decisions made by the commissioner.

But there may be a simpler explanation for the lawsuit: it could be used to firmly establish that the sale was indeed a forced sale of assets, which provides an exemption to capital-gains taxes.

A related story worth a look: The New York Times looks at the entire Sterling saga.