The fine of $2.5 million may seem inconsequential given that Sterling is worth reportedly $1.9 billion, but it was the highest amount of money permitted by the league's constitution and bylaws. Had Silver issued a higher fine, and justified it on policy or moral grounds, he would have provided Sterling with an opportunity to raise a legal point. Specifically, Sterling might have argued such a penalty is "arbitrary and capricious" because it would not have followed NBA rules. Silver, an attorney, wisely adhered to the rules instead.
3. If Sterling wins or extracts a settlement, not only could NBA owners be on the hook for an expensive fee, but Sterling would seem victorious. The appearance of him winning in court would greatly detract from the important social message accomplished by the lifetime ban.
Michael McCann is a Massachusetts attorney and the founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. He is also the distinguished visiting Hall of Fame Professor of Law at Mississippi College School of Law.