Is Donald Sterling Getting (Legal) Justice?


Is Donald Sterling getting legal justice?  Maybe not, according to conservative lawyer A.J. Delgado.

At National Review Online, Delgado contends that the penalties imposed on Sterling may not actually be justified under the NBA’s constitution and by-laws.  This is not necessarily to say that Sterling did nothing wrong for which the NBA could punish him.  Rather, Delgado argues that the NBA–reacting to public outrage, and reaching for the most spectacular possible punishment–chose a section of the by-laws that would permit a bigger penalty than would have been authorized by the section that seems more applicable to the conduct in question.


Delgado likewise suggests that the further penalty contemplated by the NBA–a forced sale of the franchise–may not be legitimate.  There is a provision that permits the other owners to force a sale.  But, according to Delgado, it is for cases in which the owner violates the by-laws or fails to perform a contractual obligation–which is not exactly the most obvious description of Sterling’s misconduct.

I don’t know whether Delgado’s argument would hold up in court, if Sterling chose to contest the NBA’s decision, although his points look plausible in light of the language he quotes from the NBA constitution and by-laws.  But his argument points to a larger issue that we need to keep in mind: even a noxious citizen has legal rights, and it is, in the long run, in everyone’s interests if moral indignation, no matter how justified, is directed and limited by rules.


The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Carson Holloway is a political scientist and the author of The Way of Life: John Paul II and the Challenge of Liberal Modernity (Baylor University Press), The Right Darwin? Evolution, Religion, and the Future of Democracy (Spence Publishing), and All Shook Up: Music, Passion and Politics (Spence Publishing), and the editor of a collection of essays entitled Magnanimity and Statesmanship (Lexington Books). His articles have appeared in the Review of Politics, Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy, Perspectives on Political Science, and First Things. He is a regular contributor to the online journal The Public Discourse. Holloway was a 2005-06 William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Northern Illinois University in 1998.

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