You are here: Home / NBA Columns / Judge Confirms Shelly Sterling Can Sell The Clippers
NBA commissioner Adam Silver

Judge Confirms Shelly Sterling Can Sell The Clippers

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver should be happy, a Judge hearing the case to determine if Shelly Sterling had the right to sell the Los Angeles Clippers pursuant to a family trust arrangement has ruled in her favor and subject to possible appeals and other ongoing litigation, this messy situation may be nearing a conclusion as far as the NBA is concerned. The sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion seems likely to get done over the objections of Donald Sterling’s lawyers.

Billy Witz of The New York Times reports,

Judge Michael Levanas of California Superior Court said that Rochelle (Shelly) Sterling had properly followed the directions of the family trust in removing Donald Sterling, her estranged husband, as co-trustee and that the sale of the team could be completed without waiting for what would be a lengthy appeal.

The essence of Shelly Sterlings’ right to sell the team hangs on the medical evidence that Donald is mentally incapacitated due to dementia or Alzheimer’s and from a layman’s point of view, the events that directly led to the actions taken by the NBA and what has occurred in court only seem to further support that assertion.

Yahoo Sports reported a Neurologist believes Donald Sterling’s has been suffering this medical condition for at least three years.

Neurologist Dr. Meril Platzer testified that she came to that conclusion after having the disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner undergo a battery of tests, including a CT (computerized tomography) scan and a PET (positron emission tomography) scan.

Asked how long Donald Sterling had been suffering from “dementia or Alzheimer’s” disease, Platzer said, “at least for three years, most likely for five years.”

The Alzheimer Society describes the symptoms of the condition as:

Memory loss affecting day-to-day abilities – forgetting things often or struggling to retain new information.

Difficulty performing familiar tasks – forgetting how to do something you’ve been doing your whole life, such as preparing a meal or getting dressed.

Problems with language – forgetting words or substituting words that don’t fit the context.

Disorientation in time and space – not knowing what day of the week it is or getting lost in a familiar place.

Impaired judgment – not recognizing a medical problem that needs attention or wearing light clothing on a cold day.

Problems with abstract thinking – not understanding what numbers signify on a calculator, for example, or how they’re used.

Misplacing things – putting things in strange places, like an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

Changes in mood and behaviour – exhibiting severe mood swings from being easy-going to quick-tempered.

Changes in personality – behaving out of character such as feeling paranoid or threatened.

Loss of initiative – losing interest in friends, family and favourite activities.

With those symptoms, it would not be possible to make rational billion dollar decisions, but it also brings up another question. What does the NBA do about Donald Sterling now? Shelly Sterling believes that one day her husband’s lifetime ban from the NBA will be lifted and her belief has merit.

Set aside Donald Sterling’s history as the Clippers owner, his trouble with housing discrimination and former NBA players, Sterling was banned for the racist comments he recently made and if his wife, a Judge and a Neurologist are to be believed, they were made while he had a medical condition that likely affected his memory, behavior and judgment.

We do not usually hold people with reduced mental capacity accountable for their actions and punish them. Once the court cases are over and Donald Sterling is out of the hands of his lawyers and under the care of the medical community, it would be appropriate to revisit the NBA’s lifetime ban. Putting Donald Sterling front and center in a courtside seat is probably going too far, he had a history before the incident that got him banned that will always be hard for many people to ignore, but not letting an old man who probably doesn’t accurately remember what he’s done or why attend a basketball game is questionable.

With an aging population, many people have family members suffering from some form of dementia. What someone with dementia does isn’t a crime, it isn’t anyone’s fault and no one should be punished because it has afflicted them.

The sale of the Clippers to new ownership is in the best interests of everyone, but the circumstances surrounding this is an issue worthy of further discussion. The NBA might want to take a step back and revisit this situation once the smoke clears. A lot of their owners are not getting any younger and dementia doesn’t spare people just because they are rich.


Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.