NEW YORK — Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling responded to the NBA’s attempt to oust him on Tuesday, arguing that there is no basis for stripping him of his team because his racist statements were illegally recorded “during an inflamed lovers’ quarrel in which he was clearly distraught.”
According to the response, obtained and posted by USA Today, Sterling says V. Stiviano recorded him without his knowledge and thus the recording was illegal under California law. He also said he could not have “willfully” damaged the league because he did not know it would be made public.
“A jealous rant to a lover never intended to be published cannot offend the NBA rules,” the response says.
Meanwhile, the attorney for Shelly Sterling confirmed that Donald Sterling has given her written permission to sell the team. According to a person who is in contact with a potential bidder, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the process publicly, the Clippers are seeking binding bids before next Tuesday.
NBA owners are scheduled to meet that afternoon in New York. The league said in a statement Tuesday that if owners voted to sustain the charge, “the Sterlings’ interests in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold.”
That requires a three-quarters vote by the 30 owners.
The NBA charged Sterling with damaging the league and its merchandising partners and the league’s constitution gave him until the end of Tuesday to respond.
In the response, Sterling also notes the disparity between his lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine and previous NBA punishments, including the $100,000 fine levied on Kobe Bryant when he was caught referring to a referee by a homosexual slur, and the 72-game suspension of Ron Artest for punching a fan.
The response also claims that the June 3 hearing cannot be fair because the owners have already made up their minds, quoting 10 teams who commented on Twitter or elsewhere that they supported the seizure of the team. A survey of teams taken by The Associated Press on the day the ban was announced found that half of the teams supported it and found no owner who was against it.
“These procedings will be a spectacle meant to mollify the popular opinion, not a fair and impartial hearing: the outcome of these procedings became a foregone conclusion weeks ago,” the response states.
According to a basketball official familiar with the proceedings, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss Sterling, the NBA has scheduled a call of its executive committee for 3 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.