NBA commissioner Adam Silver said yesterday he was baffled by the latest attack on the league and himself from embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Speaking in a TV interview from Game 3 of the NBA championship finals in Miami, Silver said the league has no role in the brewing dispute between Donald Sterling and his wife, Shelly, who has negotiated a proposed US$2 billion sale of the club to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.
Donald Sterling, who was facing the prospect of being stripped of the club over racially charged remarks he made to a girlfriend that became public in April, had said he would go along with the deal, but on Monday changed course and said he would fight it.
Donald Sterling is also pursuing a US$1 billion lawsuit against the NBA and Silver, and in his latest broadside issued on Tuesday through a lawyer said the league was violating his rights “in order to draw attention away from their own discriminatory and repulsive conduct.”
He also said that he is fighting for the fundamental rights of Americans against the NBA, which he calls “a band of hypocrites and bullies” and “despicable monsters.”
In a statement issued through attorney Bobby Samini and published on Tuesday on the Los Angeles Times Web site, Sterling accuses Silver of ignoring “the NBA’s own discriminatory practices, including those that occurred under his many years of leadership.”
“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Silver said. “This is about Donald Sterling and his conduct, and if he wants to litigate, he’ll litigate.”
Silver banned Donald Sterling for life from the NBA and fined him US$2.5 million when his comments disparaging black people created provoked outrage.
However, proceedings to strip him of the club were halted after Shelly Sterling, acting as the head of the Sterling Family Trust, negotiated the blockbuster deal with Ballmer.
Donald Sterling at one point indicated he would support the sale and drop the US$1 billion lawsuit he filed against the NBA on the same day the deal was announced. However, on Monday he reversed course, reiterating his claim that because the comments were made in a conversation recorded without his permission they could not be the basis for sanctions.
Donald Sterling is reportedly facing a court challenge from his wife, who according to the Los Angeles Times was to ask a judge yesterday to confirm her authority to sell the Clippers.
Donald Sterling’s attorney, Maxwell Blecher, told the newspaper he had been notified by Shelly Sterling’s lawyers that they plan to go to court yesterday to clarify who is in control of the family trust.
“The understanding we have is that she is going to go in and say that he has cognitive impairment that has prevented him from making decisions,” Blecher said. “And that is something we will oppose.”