It's about fairness. When motives that are absurd, implausible, or unlikely are set aside, the only motive that makes sense is fairness. It is clear from Mr. Sterling's letter that he believes he has been treated extremely unfairly by his former companion, by the media, and, especially, by the NBA. To that one can safely add, especially in light of the Times story, by his wife.
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It is not uncommon for clients with means to devote resources to legal fights on principle that substantially exceed the money at stake. Last year, a prominent businessman took insider trading charges brought by the SEC to trial and won. The charge was that the businessman had used inside information to avoid a loss of $750,000. It was estimated he spent about twice that to defense himself. In an interview with a CNBC reporter published last year, the businessman was asked why he spent so much to fight over so little. He said: "Because I hate to be bullied. I love this country ... I have the resources to fight. I felt compelled to take up that fight." The businessman was Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Fairness matters. Mr. Sterling's contention that he was treated unfairly or unlawfully is debatable. His insistence that a fight for fairness cannot be measured by the dollars at stake alone is not.
Commentary by Dan Eaton, a partner with the San Diego law firm of Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek where his practice focuses on defending and advising employers. He also is a professor at the San Diego State University College of Business Administration where he teaches classes in business ethics and employment law. Follow him on Twitter @DanEatonlaw.