Los Angeles (AFP) – Donald Sterling, the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has decided to fight to keep the NBA team and pull out of a $2 billion sale deal, according to reports.
Sterling, whose racist comments prompted NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban him for life, had announced last week through his attorney he had agreed to sell the Clippers for Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.
“The deal is off,” Sterling attorney Max Blecher said Monday in an e-mail to ESPN, which also reported that Sterling has instructed the lawyer to pursue a $1 billion lawsuit against the league and Silver and withdraw support for a sale.
Blecher would not say if the decision to change his mind came as a result of the NBA being unwilling to back off the life ban and $2.5 million fine imposed by Silver.
“I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights,” Sterling said in a statement to NBC. “While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled.
“I intend to fight to keep the team.”
NBA owners were set to meet last week and vote on whether or not to strip Sterling of the Clippers, but the gathering was called off when the deal with Ballmer, negotiated by Sterling’s wife Shelly, was thought to be done.
The unraveling of the sale could lead owners to reschedule the meeting and vote on Sterling’s fate as an owner, a vote Silver said he expects will support pulling the team from Sterling.
“From the onset, I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. I have worked for 33 years to build the team,” said Sterling.
He repeated his apology for saying in a taped conversation that he wanted his girlfriend not to bring black people to Clippers games or post photos with black people on social media.
“To be clear, I am extremely sorry for the hurtful statements I made privately. I made those statements in anger and out of jealousy all in the context of a private conversation,” Sterling said.
“While this is not an excuse for the statements, like every other American, I never imagined that my private conversation would be made public.
“I believe that Adam Silver acted in haste by illegally ordering the forced sale of the Clippers, banning me for life from the NBA and imposing the fine. Adam Silver’s conduct in doing so without conducting any real investigation was wrong.”
AFP Photo/Robyn Beck