Sterling vows to fight NBA's bid to strip him of Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling at Staples Center in California on April 21, 2014 - by Robyn Beck
Sterling met the NBA's deadline for a response to its charge of racist conduct detrimental to the league, saying the recording of his racially charged remarks that ignited a firestorm in April was illegally made and can't be used to expel him from the league.
In his letter to the league, posted in full online by USA Today and The Los Angeles Times, Sterling says he's received offers of more than $2.5 billion for the team, but says a forced sale would result in an "egregious" tax burden for him and his family.
Sterling says that his remarks about African Americans were made in a private conversation with girlfriend V. Stiviano, and that recording them without his knowledge was a crime under California law.
"This was an argument between a jealous man and the woman he loved that should never have left the privacy of the living room," Sterling says.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life from NBA facilities and activities and fined him $2.5 million after the comments were made public via the gossip website TMZ in April.
Silver called for Sterling to be stripped of his ownership of the club -- something that requires a vote of three-quarters of the remaining 29 owners.
On May 20, the league spelled out its position that Sterling's actions -- in the recorded conversations and in his response to the scandal -- "significantly undermine the NBA's efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, damage the NBA's relationship with its fans, harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel and impair the NBA's relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders."
- 'Sham proceedings' -
In his formal response Sterling said the league had over-reached itself.
"We do not believe a court in the United States of America will enforce the draconian penalties imposed on Mr. Sterling in these circumstances, and indeed, we believe that preservation of Mr. Sterling's constitutional rights requires that these sham proceedings be terminated in Mr. Sterling's favor," Sterling's response said.
The league has maintained it has grounds to terminate his ownership "under several provisions of the NBA Constitution and related agreements", although Sterling disputed that in his response.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for June 3, and Sterling pointed to expressions of support that Silver has already received from many owners as proof that the hearing would not be fair.
He also compared the punishment already meted out to him to fines and bans handed down by the league in other cases involving players and team officials, saying the sanctions imposed on him were disproportionate.
Even as the deadline for Sterling's response drew near, reports surfaced that his wife, Shelly, was moving to sell the club.
Gossip TMZ and sports network ESPN were among the media outlets reporting that Shelly Sterling has fielded inquiries from at least six serious bidders for the club.
Steve Ballmer, the billionaire former chief executive of Microsoft, has been mentioned as a front-runner among potential buyers.
Donald Sterling surrendered control of the Clippers last week to Shelly Sterling, who was a part-owner of the team but wasn't banned by Silver when he sanctioned her husband.
However, the NBA said that it would proceed with its efforts to strip Sterling of the club, and league officials say that if that goes through Shelly Sterling's ownership stake would be terminated along with her husband's under terms of the franchise agreement Donald Sterling signed when he bought the club for $12 million in 1981.