8:40pm: A confidant of Donald Sterling claims the investigative firms already have uncovered allegations of racial discrimination by NBA officials that are as bad as comments Sterling made suggesting he did not want to see blacks at Clippers games, reports James Rainey of The Los Angeles Times.
11:58am: There’s a “good chance” that the NBA will file a countersuit against Donald Sterling, who’s pushing forward with a $1 billion lawsuit against the league, sources tell Michael McCann of SI.com. The league is set to respond to Sterling on June 23rd, according to McCann. It’s unclear precisely what the league would seek from Sterling in the suit.
Donald Sterling has hired four private investigation firms to try to uncover evidence of misconduct among the NBA and owners of the other 29 clubs, as Tami Abdollah of The Associated Press and Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com report. The firms received budgets in excess of $100K to pore over the league’s finances and its compensation for David Stern and Adam Silver, examine previous allegations of discrimination, and look into whether any other owners have made insensitive remarks, Abdollah writes. The league is prepared to argue that it has a strong record of promoting diversity in the workplace, a source tells McCann.
Sterling’s lawsuit against the NBA seeks only monetary relief, and it’s not directly aimed at allowing him to remain as owner, as McCann points out. Sterling’s attempt to continue to control the Clippers centers on a probate court hearing next month that will determine whether his wife acted within her rights to unilaterally agree to sell the Clippers to Steve Ballmer via the Sterling family trust, as previous reports have detailed.
If the court rules that Shelly Sterling did not have that right, the NBA will seek to strip control of the Clippers from the Sterlings, as McCann details. The league would likely invoke a clause in its constitution that would allow the NBA to take over the franchise itself if three-quarters of the league’s other owners vote to take the team away from the Sterlings, according to McCann. The league would then look to sell the team to new ownership, and sources tell McCann that the NBA might invite other bids rather than simply turn the team over to Ballmer. The proceeds from the sale, minus expenses the NBA incurred as it conducted the bidding, would still eventually wind up going to the Sterlings, McCann writes.