Donald Sterling’s 26-page answer to the NBA’s charges against him cites the league for hypocrisy in its ban-for-life punishment of him when it meted out a $100,000 fine when Kobe Bryant called a referee a nasty name aimed at homosexuals on national television. Sterling’s attorneys call the NBA’s hearings on the matter “sham proceedings.”
The brief also cites Shaquille O’Neal’s eleven-year-old attempt at humor, “Tell Yao Ming, ‘ching chong yang wah ah soh,'” and donations to pro-traditional-marriage groups by fellow owner Rich DeVos, as controversial acts unnoticed by NBA punishers. Though it doesn’t mention Shaq, de Vos, and several others by name, the brief referencing the transgressions, real and imagined, of well-known figures will not win Sterling any new friends. Like his public barbs against Magic Johnson, Sterling didn’t hesitate to criticize a famous Los Angeles Lakers player by name in calling out Kobe.
Sterling also challenges the facts presented against him as out of context. “Sterling was engaged in a lovers’ tiff stemming from his jealous reaction to Ms. Stiviano’s statement that she was going to ‘bring four gorgeous black guys to the game,'” the response to the NBA alleges. “Mr. Sterling’s ego was obviously bruised by this remark suggesting that she was cavorting with younger, ‘gorgeous’ men. It’s facially ludicrous that what Mr. Sterling said in these circumstances could produce the equivalent of a death penalty while Kobe Bryant called a referee a ‘f–ing f—–‘ on national television sustaining only a modest $100,000 fine.”
Sterling’s team points out that players committing violent crimes, rather than merely saying something offensive, have been subject to far more lenient NBA discipline. They note the haste with which the proceedings have progressed, charge that the NBA constitution doesn’t empower the league to expel Sterling, complain that locking Sterling out of his Staples Center office prevents him from mounting a strong defense, and allege that since owners have already decided that they will vote to expel Sterling any hearing on the matter constitutes a farce. The brief claims:
The NBA’s use of this illegal recording constitutes a clear and blatan violation of Mr. Sterling’s California constitutional rights. The authors of the charge did not have the courage, decency, or honesty to acknowledge the circumstances surrounding Mr. Sterling’s jealous rant or even that the source of their information was borne from the ‘fruit of the poisonous tree.’ So, in reality, Mr. Sterling is being banned for life, fined $2.5 million, and stripped of his ownership for a purely private conversation with his lover that he did not know was being recorded and that he never intended would see the light of day. We do not believe a court in the United States of America will enforce the draconian penalties imposed on Mr. Sterling in these circumstances, and indeed, we believe that preservation of Mr. Sterling’s constitutional rights requires that these sham proceedings be terminated in Mr. Sterling’s favor.
The brief cites substantial capital gains taxes totaling into the hundreds of millions of dollars as one of the ways in which the NBA forcing a sale would harm the Sterling family. Sterling’s representatives argue, “No owner, coach, or player has ever been fined close to $2.5 million, banned for life, and forced to sell their property for any offense, let alone an alleged private speech-related offense.”