LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A response filed with the NBA Tuesday by embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling claims that the league’s use of an “illegally recorded” conversation that took place during a “lovers’ quarrel” cannot be used to strip him of his ownership.
The league is currently working to force a sale of the team, based on racially inflammatory comments that were caught on tape during a conversation between Sterling and companion V. Stiviano.
Sterling, in a response to the NBA’s statement of the charges against him, said that he should not be forced out as an owner.
“The NBA’s use of this illegal recording constitutes a clear and blatant violation of Mr. Sterling’s California constitutional rights,” according to the document, which was obtained by USA Today. “The authors of the charge did not have the courage, decency or honesty to acknowledge the circumstances surrounding Mr. Sterling’s jealous rant or even that the source of their information was born from the ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’.”
“So, in reality, Mr. Sterling is being banned for life, fined $2.5 million and stripped of his ownership for a purely private conversation with his lover, that he did not know was being recorded, and that he never intended would see the light of day. We do not believe a court in the United State 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.”
Tuesday marked a deadline, set by the league, for Sterling to respond to the allegations against him. The NBA’s Board of Governors is expected to meet on June 3 to discuss the case, and could possibly vote on whether to force Sterling to sell the team.
A two-thirds vote of the board is required for the move to proceed.
“This evening, the NBA received responses from Donald and Shelly Sterling to the charge to terminate the current ownership interests in the Los Angeles Clippers,” Executive Vice President of Communications Mike Bass said. “The NBA Board of Gorvernors will meet on June 3 at 1 p.m. in New York City to hear and vote upon this matter. Should the Board vote to sustain the charge, the Sterlings’ interests in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver lashed out at Sterling, banning him for life from the league and fining him $2.5 million after the recorded conversations became public. Silver claimed that Sterling’s comments were detrimental to the league and its image.
On the recording, Sterling is heard chastising Stiviano for appearing in photographs with black people — including a specific discussion on Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson — and bringing them to Clippers games.
In a subsequent interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Sterling claimed that he was not a racist, and that he had been “baited” into making the comments. He also told Cooper that Johnson was a poor role model due to his promiscuity, and because he had contracted the HIV virus, and has not, in Sterling’s opinion, done much for black people.
Sterling bought the team in 1981 for $12.5 million. Forbes recently valued the team at around $575 million, making it the league’s 13th most valuable franchise.
Sterling, in his response to the NBA, insists that he was illegally recorded without his knowledge, and thus none of his comments can be used against him. He also contends that he has not violated the NBA’s constitution, insisting, “A jealous rant to a lover never intended to be published cannot offend the NBA rules.”
Sterling said he was “distraught” during the conversation, and having a “jealous reaction to Ms. Stiviano’s statement that she was going to ‘bring four gorgeous black guys to the game.'”
Sterling additionally maintains that his comments to Cooper did not violate any rules of the NBA, saying that, while his “opinions may be unpopular and false, they remain opinions.”
USA Today reported that Sterling’s wife, Shelly, is expected to file a response of her own with the league by Tuesday night.
Sterling has reportedly authorized his wife to oversee a possible sale of the franchise.
“Donald Sterling has authorized Shelly Sterling in writing to negotiate the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, including his 50 percent ownership of the team,” Shelly’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell said. “Shelly is managing the sale of the Clippers. While no formal offers have yet been received, Shelly and the NBA are working cooperatively on the transaction.”
Reports emerged Tuesday that Shelly had hired Bank of America to conduct the potential sale.
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