Donald Sterling Flat-Out Refuses Clippers Sale, Rants About Suing The NBA Next
And the Donald Sterling saga continues. After initially agreeing to a multibillion-dollar deal, Sterling is now refusing to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, announcing his decision Monday in a one-page statement titled "The Team is not for Sale." Instead of selling the NBA franchise, the 80-year-old embattled Clippers owner will pursue a $1 billion federal lawsuit against the professional basketball association. Sterling, who has been pressured to sell the team over racist comments leaked to the media, believes the NBA violated his constitutional rights.
"From the onset, I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers," Sterling said in his statement. As you might expect, he also heavily criticized NBA Commissioner Adam Silver:
Many things have been said about me in the media which are not true. I believe that Adam Silver acted in haste by illegally ordering the forced sale of the Clippers, banning me for life from the NBA and imposing the fine. Adam Silver’s conduct in doing so without conducting any real investigation was wrong.
"I love the team and have dedicated 33 years of my life to the organization. I intend to fight to keep the Team," Sterling added. He also apologized for his hateful, racially charged comments, which were made in a private conversation with his 31-year-old girlfriend, V. Stiviano.
According to Sterling, he made those "hurtful statements" out of "anger and jealousy."
This recent statement is a twist of events in the Sterling-Silver-Clippers narrative, which has been dragging on since late April. Just last week, Sterling's lawyer announced that he and his wife, Shelly, agreed to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a deal worth $2 billion. Under the deal, Shelly would be given the title "Owner Emeritus" and receive up to 10 percent of the Clippers. At the time, Sterling's attorney Bobby Samini said in a statement that all "disputes and outstanding issues have been resolved."
However, attorney Maxwell Blecher told The Associated Press Monday that they have been "instructed to prosecute the lawsuit" against the NBA. According to The AP, the lawsuit alleges that the NBA violated Sterling's constitutional rights because it used illegally recorded evidence against him. The lawsuit also claims that the NBA broke antitrust laws because the league forced a sale, and committed a breach of contract when it fined Sterling $2.5 million over the racist remarks.
So, the question is: Why is Sterling continuing the legal fight? It could be because of the terms of the agreement. Sources close to Sterling told The AP that the embattled owner refused to sign off on the sale when he found out the NBA wouldn't repeal his fine or lifetime ban after he relinquishes ownership of the team.
Samini confirmed this in an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show Tuesday. “I’m not going to go into the particulars of the discussions, but that clearly wasn’t the understanding,” he said. “Of course Adam Silver has come out now and made it clear that he’s not going to back off.”
However, an NBA spokesperson told The AP that there was never any discussion of modifying "Mr. Sterling's penalty."
Sterling's recent diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease could also play a hand, in both the sale and the ensuing lawsuit. According to The New York Times, the reveal of Sterling's health condition allegedly hastened the negotiations. After Sterling again refused to sell the Clippers in late May, Shelly decided to go with "Plan B": a provision in the team's trust that said if either Donald or Shelley was found to have a cognitive impairment, the other became the sole trustee.
A doctor diagnosed Sterling with symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, putting Shelly in charge of the trust and ultimately, the fate of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Does Donald Sterling still have a case? Well, Samini insisted to Lauer that his client had "sound" mental health, despite alleged medical documentation showing cognitive impairment. He called the Alzheimer's diagnosis a legal tactic to force Sterling to sell.
But Samini lawyer seems to think that the issue here is not just with Donald Sterling, but with the NBA, citing recent settlements on gender discrimination within the league. "If you’re going to come after Sterling maybe it’s time for the NBA to take a close reflection on their own conduct,” Samini said on the Today show. “They seem to think gender discrimination is OK. ... [The NBA is] a band of hypocrites."
Image: Screenshot/ABC News