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, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, 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,” Sterling said in the document, which was first reported by USA Today.
The response 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 NBA said Sterling is in violation because his racist comments were harmful to the league and its business partners, including the players. Sterling’s response argues that because his comments came in the privacy of his girlfriend’s living room he cannot be considered “taking a position” that damaged the NBA, as required under the league constitution.
“Mr. Sterling was not ‘conducting’ the ‘sport of professional basketball’ when he was arguing with Ms. Stiviano in her living room,” the response says. “Not even the commissioner alleges that Mr. Sterling intended to harm the NBA with his comment. Nor could he. This was an argument between a jealous man and the woman he loved that should never have left the privacy of his living room.”
The response claims that it would cost Sterling $300 million to $500 million in capital gains taxes if he is forced to sell now rather than pass the team to his heirs.