The NBA’s lifetime ban of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racist remarks raises complicated legal issues related to antitrust laws, according to Suffolk University Law School Professor Elbert Robertson. Meanwhile, Professor Frank Rudy Cooper says there is a separate reason for Sterling's removel -- housing discrimination. Both professors are available for comment and analysis.
“While many rejoice at the decision by the NBA to permanently ban LA Clipper’s owner Sterling from the NBA because of his racist remarks allegedly made--and recorded--during a private telephone conversation, there are potential legal implications for the league that must be considered and anticipated,” said Robertson.
“Since professional basketball does not have the privilege of a full exemption from the Sherman Antitrust Act (as does professional baseball) any punitive collective action taken by the league that causes economic damage to Sterling’s interest in the Clippers or causes him to sell out at a loss could be found to be an illegal conspiracy by a cartel driven by the other owners who are in fact his economic competitors,” he said. “While he probably has signed a general waiver of his right to sue over league administrative matters, this waiver is not effective against rights arising under the Federal Antitrust laws or the California state constitution. This is--no pun intended--not necessarily a ‘slam-dunk win for the NBA.’”
Cooper focused on charges that Sterling discriminated on the basis of race at apartment buildings he owned in California.
“Adam Silver’s actions are completely appropriate, but not because of Sterling’s comments, because of his actions of housing discrimination,” he said.
Cooper teaches race, gender and law; Constitutional law; criminal law; and related topics. He has published more than 20 scholarly works, including the co-edited book, Masculinities and the Law: A Multidimensional Approach. He is a board member of the John Mercer Langston Writing Workshop and the Northeast People of Color legal scholarship conference.
Robertson teaches antitrust law and related topics. He has served as a special antitrust attorney and adviser in the Competition Division of the Office of General Counsel of the Federal Communications Commission. He is a member of the International Association for the Philosophy of Law & Social Philosophy; the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy; the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management; and the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.