On Monday, the NBA gave Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling a May 27 deadline to respond to the league’s plans to vote on his dismissal on June 3. The NBA cited both his recorded conversation with girlfriend V. Stiviano, originally released by TMZ in late April, and his pathetic attempts to explain himself in an embarrassing and insulting interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper earlier in May. These deadlines come on the heels of Sterling’s banishment from life from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine the Clippers owner has refused to pay, even though Sterling has repeatedly signed off on the sorts of bargaining agreements that ensure such fines be taken from owners.
What the NBA did not do is release the full version of its investigation against Sterling, pitched before and around the banishment. The Los Angeles Times did receive a copy of the investigation, 30 pages long, and detailed some of the more duplicitous findings.
Donald Sterling, as one would expect, is going to do everything he can to worm his way out of his little, lawyer-rich, hovel. From the Times:
Stiviano told Anders that Sterling met with her on May 2, shortly before she was interviewed by ABC’s Barbara Walters. Sterling asked Stiviano to tell the NBA that she lied in her previous meeting with the league. The billionaire owner wanted her to tell the league investigators that the voice on the recording was not his and that she had altered the recording, Stiviano told the investigators. Sterling also allegedly tried to bring a quiet close to his wife’s lawsuit against Stiviano, which sought to recover some of her husband’s money used to buy Stiviano a home and several luxury cars.
Stiviano said Donald Sterling requested that she pay Shelly Sterling to settle the lawsuit, filed in 2013, and that he would return the money to Stiviano through “back channels.”
One of the six counts issued Monday accuses the Sterling-led Clippers organization of "destroying evidence relating to the recording, providing false and misleading information to [Chief NBA Investigator David] Anders in connection with the commissioner's investigation of the recording and issuing a false and misleading public statement on April 26 regarding the authenticity of the TMZ recording."
It also says there is ample evidence that Sterling and his wife are not estranged, as has been suggested. The charges say the couple is "inextricably intertwined" and cites multiple instances of them appearing together, including at Clippers games and in the two days immediately after the recording became public.
You’ll recall that Shelly Sterling seemed far from estranged from her husband while denying claims of his racism soon after the tapes were released, before eventually further lawyering up and announcing plans to both fight the NBA and divorce Sterling in spite of her own alleged discriminatory practices … because money and power, that’s why.
The Times report also further incriminates former Clippers president Andy Roeser, in the NBA’s eyes. Roeser was given access to the tapes weeks before they were released, from a team employee who received them from Stiviano, according to the report. Allegedly, Roeser knew that the voice on the tapes was that of Sterling, but kept a brave “that-might-not-be-Donald!” face both in a press release and in discussions with the NBA. This sort of duplicity, the NBA terms it as “falsely questioning the legitimacy and authenticity of the recording,” is likely why Roeser is now an indefinite leave of absence.
Enough points were already piled up against Sterling to convince the league to do away with the Clippers owner – the NBA has tolerated his discriminatory and allegedly racist nature for years, but once Sterling started costing the league revenue, it rightfully moved quickly under the NBA constitution to set up a vote to oust Sterling from the league. If an interview with Stiviano revealed Sterling had asked her to lie to the NBA and its investigators, while still attempting to find ways to claim the tapes doctored and his statements (ones he later admitted to making, in full), then the NBA has more and more to add to its ledger.
And the fact Sterling chose not to show regret for the tapes to league commissioner Adam Silver, but rather saving it for a sit-down interview with Anderson Cooper some weeks later? That’s going to go a long way, when the league is able to get down to the brass tacks of why, exactly, Sterling has defied NBA law.
Again, this is not a free speech issue. Donald Sterling is well within his rights to say ridiculous things to his ridiculous girlfriend, and then give a weasel-y, non-apology apology about those ridiculous things to Anderson Cooper.
(Weirdly, my email inbox stopped filling up with often-misspelled defenses of Sterling and his right to free speech following the event on CNN. Odd, as to why they wouldn’t defend him after that.)
Within the NBA’s confines – which, let’s repeat, Donald Sterling repeatedly signed off on adhering to for years – the Los Angeles Clippers owner can be taken down from his job if the NBA can prove he’s harming the league. And as soon as the first sponsorship penny drops from the NBA’s coffers, the league is within its rights to cut out its weak link. The league is filled with owners who have done reprehensible things with no reflex and certainly no nationally televised apology following. Those owners aren't hurting the brand, though. At least not yet.
The NBA’s investigation reportedly confirmed what we suspected all along – that Donald Sterling would talk out of both sides of his mouth while attempting to preserve his celebrity and status, and that he’d attempt to pass the buck before facing any sort of music.
Now one can only hope the league’s legal representation can outfox whoever Donald Sterling hires to represent him and his interests in court.
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