Donald Sterling: Proceedings a sham

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has no intention of selling the team and "is going to fight to the bloody end," his lawyer, Max Blecher told ESPN on Tuesday.

Sterling responded forcefully to the NBA's charges to terminate his ownership Tuesday evening, calling the NBA's penalties "draconian" and the proceedings a "sham."

In the documents sent to the NBA offices Tuesday, Sterling denies every allegation and charge made by the NBA and asks that the proceedings to terminate him at a hearing of the Board of Governors on June 3 be dismissed.

"I believe what they've done is illegal and it will not hold up in court," Blecher told ESPN. "I believe what they're doing is a blatant invasion of his constitutional rights because they're using a tape recording that he did not consent to and under California law that recording cannot be used for any purpose, for any proceeding.

"So if the basis of their case is illegal evidence, they don't have much of a case. ... The whole thing is a pile of garbage."

Blecher also said that Sterling was "disavowing" anything his wife Shelly Sterling has done to try and negotiate a sale of the team.

Pierce O'Donnell, the attorney for Shelly Sterling, issued a statement Tuesday confirming that, "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" and that his client "and the NBA are working cooperatively on the transaction."

Shelly Sterling has retained Bank of America to help sell the franchise. ESPN reported on Sunday that at least six serious groups have approached Shelly Sterling and her advisers about purchasing the team.

That agreement seems to be in jeopardy now.

"I don't know what agreement she has with him, but I'm saying to you today, he disavows anything she's doing to sell the team," Blecher said. "He says 'It's my team and I'll sell it when and if I get around to it.' "

Asked why Sterling seems to have had a change of heart, Blecher said, "He was in a state of shock at first. Now he's recovering and he's much more feisty."

Both Sterlings had until midnight Eastern to respond to the NBA's charges. Shelly Sterling also filed a response to the league's termination charges, reasserting her 50 percent ownership interest in the team and contending that she is being unfairly punished for the actions of her husband.

In a statement from vice president of communications Mike Bass, the NBA said the responses from the lawyers representing Donald and Shelly Sterling, will be distributed -- together with the charge -- to the Board of Governors before the hearing next Tuesday.

"Should the Board vote to sustain the charge, the Sterlings' interests in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold," the league said.

In his written response, Sterling also threatens future legal action against the NBA under state or federal law, questions his ability to get a fair hearing from the board of governors -- many of whom issued statements condemning his words and praising the actions of NBA commissioner Adam Silver -- and states that he never intended to harm the NBA with his comments.

"This was an argument by a jealous man and the woman he loved that never should have left the privacy of the living room," the response reads. "And while Mr. Sterling said some terrible words in the passion of the argument -- as he had already publicly admitted and for which he has apologized -- he has not taken a 'position' or an 'action.' "

Sterling also argues that he is being unfairly punished commensurate with other offenses, such as the $100,000 fine Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant received in 2011 for using a homophobic slur at a referee.

While his "opinions may be unpopular and false, they remain opinions," Sterling's response reads, he questions whether the NBA is "willing to set a standard that an individual can be punished for voicing a negative opinion.

"If so, such a standard will make short shrift of many players and coaches. It will also needlessly suppress free speech."

Sterling specifically references Orlando Magic owner Richard DeVos, who, in his words "has made highly controversial comments against individuals with HIV/AIDS and generously supports anti-homosexual causes with impunity."

Sterling contends that while his statements were regrettable, they did not have a materially adverse affect on the NBA and that because he is locked out from his offices at Staples Center, he is not able to adequately respond to those charges.

"Among other things," Sterling's response reads. "He cannot verify how many season ticket holders have demanded refunds, how many individuals purchased season tickets after the illegal recording was released, and how merchandise and concession sales were impacted after the illegal recording."

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