Q&A with Kent Meyers
NBA owner’s forced sale of team
raises questions, antitrust issue
Q: Describe the situation Donald Sterling and the NBA face.
A: Difficult at best. If they get into a legal fight in court, the stakes for each are enormous. Sterling faces the possible loss of what he perceives to be the market value of his team in a forced sale. The NBA faces the potential for owner and player chaos if it can’t get rid of Sterling.
Q: Is there any legal basis for a forced sale of the team?
A: Yes, the NBA constitution and bylaws are deemed by the parties to be a contract. The contract prohibits making any statement having or designed to have an effect prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball or the association or a member on its team: (NBA Constitution, Article 35A). This is the NBA’s authority to act.
Q: What antitrust issues does this case raise?
A: The antitrust issues raised by this case include the possible construction of the NBA to be deemed a group of competitors operating together and conspiring to force Sterling from the league. In one case, the NBA has been determined to be a single firm and not a group of competitors operating together. If this were to be the finding, then it is unlikely that an antitrust claim could be successfully asserted. In another case, the Supreme Court found the NFL to be a group of competitors acting in concert. If the court would follow the Supreme Court’s construction of the NFL, then a conspiracy could be created by the NBA that would call into question the validity of the league’s actions under the antitrust laws.
Q: How could this impact or apply to Oklahoma businesses?
A: Of course, the Oklahoma City Thunder is a member of the NBA, and should the NBA be found to be liable to Donald Sterling for violation of the antitrust laws, it is possible that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have to pay its share of any judgment ruled in Sterling’s favor. However, the NBA Constitution also gives the power to the commissioner and the owners to do what they are threatening to do, and to treat such action as final and not subject to review by any court. This could very well be the interpretation the court would follow and say that what the NBA did in relation to Sterling is final and is not subject to judicial review.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER