Donald Sterling, the embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner banned for life by the NBA over racist remarks, has reportedly hired investigators to look into fellow team owners and league officials.
NBC and ESPN reported Friday that the 80-year-old real estate tycoon is fighting back as the league tries to force a sale of the club or strip ownership of the Clippers from him.
Both US television networks, citing unnamed sources in website reports, said Sterling has hired four high-level firms to look into commissioner Adam Silver, former commissioner David Stern and the other 29 club owners.
Sterling wants to look into prior legal disputes involving the league, comments that have been controversial or could be taken as discriminatory by other club owners and NBA finances and revenues.
Sterling wants to examine the NBA’s history of dealing with discrimination, specifically in lawsuits by NBA employees claiming discrimination based on gender.
“His objective is to demonstrate for everybody that the NBA is a damned hypocrite,” Sterling attorney Bobby Samini told ESPN.
“We’re going to pull every case against the NBA. Then we’ll demonstrate that the culture of racism and gender discrimination is born at the NBA, where Adam Silver has worked in a high-level position for a long time.”
In April, Sterling made comments to his erstwhile girlfriend saying he did not want her to bring black people to Clippers games or put photos of herself with black people on social media, comments that were recorded and later made public by celebrity website TMZ.
Sterling’s remarks prompted a player protest by the Clippers, sponsor pullouts from the team and sparked Silver to ban Sterling from the NBA for life and fine him the maximim $2.5 million allowed as well as begin the process of removing him as an owner.
An owners vote was scheduled earlier this month to consider the matter but called off by Sterling’s wife Shelly, acting on behalf of the family trust that owns the team and with her husband’s permission, negotiated a sale deal worth $2 billion with former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer.
The league said Sterling had to drop a lawsuit against it before any sale deal could be considered and instead Sterling backed out of the deal and said he planned to press ahead with the lawsuit and fight to keep the Clippers.
In court papers filed earlier this week ahead of a July 7 hearing on Sterling’s competency to run the trust, Shelly Sterling said any blocking of the sale would be a disaster and financial setback and filed letters from doctors saying Donald Sterling was impaired and unable to make such financial decisions, something a court will decide next month just days before a sale deadline.