Sterling Sues NBA for $1 Billion Over Lifetime Ban, Forced Sale
(CN) - Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Donald Sterling is suing the NBA for more than $1 billion over its decision to ban him from the game for life and force him to sell the franchise.
The 14-page lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles late Friday asserts that the now-infamous recording in which Sterling made racist comments was made in violation of California law.
Sterling, whose mental state was also called into question Friday, contends his ouster from the league is unlawful because he never violated the NBA's constitution.
The lawsuit comes a day after Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, agreed to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, and a day before the NBA Board of Governors was set to vote to force the Clippers' longtime owner to sell the team.
In the complaint, Sterling revisits the events that precipitated racist comments he made to girlfriend V. Stiviano, saying the impetus for the conversation in question was Stiviano telling him that "she was going to bring 'four gorgeous black guys' to a Clippers game."
"During the illegally recorded conversation, Sterling, in a jealous moment, asked Stiviano, who is half African-American, not to bring 'black people' to Clippers games and to refrain from posting pictures of herself with 'black people' on Instagram," Sterling says.
Sterling acknowledges that the release of what he called "the illicit audiotape" prompted a predictable public backlash. But, he says, the NBA's response was nothing short of "draconian."
The league's sanctions, announced on April 29, included a $2.5 million fine and a lifetime ban against Sterling's involvement with the operation or management of the Clippers, and barred him from ever attending another NBA game.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also announced that a vote would be conducted by the NBA Board of Governors on June 3 to force Sterling to sell the team.
Sterling says the NBA's charge against him is based "entirely or almost entirely" on what he calls "the illegal Stiviano recording" of an "inflamed lovers' quarrel."
"Incredibly, despite the clear and precise language of California Penal Code section 632(d) ... in their proceeding against plaintiffs, defendants rely almost entirely on an inadmissible transcript of the illegally recorded conversation and other evidence flowing directly from the conversation," Sterling says.
He goes on to accuse the NBA of conducting an inadequate investigation and of denying him an adequate opportunity to fully prepare a defense for himself.
Sterling contends the forced sale of the Los Angeles Clippers "threatens not only to produce a lower price than a non-forced sale, but more importantly, it injures competition and creates antitrust injury by making the relevant market unresponsive to consumer preference and to the operation of the free market."
Further, he says, the NBA's forced sale of the team would "create damages of at least $1 billion, which includes capital gains taxes, unnecessary and increased investment-banking fees, legal and transactional costs, and the loss of all future appreciation in the Los Angeles Clippers franchise value, before trebling."
In addition to more than $1 billion in damages, Sterling is seeking the removal of his lifetime ban, recession of the $2.5 million fine, and his reinstatement as chief executive office of the Clippers.
He is represented by Maxwell Blecher of Blecher, Collins, Pepperman & Joye PC of Los Angeles.