Basketball / Sports

Clippers' Donald Sterling retains legal counsel, threatens to sue NBA

LOS ANGELES -- In the moments before the biggest game of their season Thursday, another distraction bubbled to the surface for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who has been banned for life by the NBA, has retained legal counsel and has threatened to sue the league.

According to multiple reports, Sterling's lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, sent a letter to NBA executive vice president and general counsel Rick Buchanan saying Sterling has done nothing wrong and "no punishment is warranted."

The letter also says Sterling will not pay the $2.5 million fine levied by the league in addition to the lifetime ban.

NBA sources said the league has been preparing for litigation with confidence that they possess a strong case against Sterling.

The Clippers interim CEO Dick Parsons, appointed in the wake of the Sterling scandal, has said he believes the league will win its case.

"I have a belief, and my personal belief is that the league will prevail, which means that there will be an ownership change," Parsons said earlier this week. "That's a personal belief based on having not only looked at the docs but having looked Adam Silver in the eye and seen the determination, and my goodness, I mean, this is just -- there's so much momentum for doing the right thing here and so much support for doing the right thing that at the end of the day, I believe ownership will change."

After a recording of Sterling making racist statements became public April 25, players around the league considered a boycott and several sponsors cut ties with the organization, costing the team millions of dollars.

With sponsors fleeing, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the league had banned Sterling for life, in addition to urging the league's other owners to force a sale -- something the NBA says it has the power to do.

The NBA didn't make an immediate comment to the reports.

According to multiple reports, Blecher's letter details the framework for Sterling's case against the league.

In the letter, Sterling's attorney claims his client hasn't violated the league's constitution, referencing an article that governs player misconduct. The letter also says Sterling's due process rights were violated by the league, which levied its decision four days after the audio was released.

The league is expected to cite Article 13, Section D, in making its case against Sterling.

That portion of the league's constitution, which hadn't been available to the public until recently, says ownership can be terminated by the league's Board of Governors with a three-quarters vote if the owner shall "fail or refuse to fulfill its contractual obligations to the Association, its Members, Players, or any other third party in such a way as to affect the Association or its Members adversely."

Sterling's refusal to pay the fine also could work against him.

Section C of the same article says an owner can be removed if he or she fails to "pay any dues or other indebtedness owing to the Association within thirty days after Written Notice from the Commissioner of default in such payment."

Sterling reportedly received a letter from the NBA on Wednesday saying he must pay his $2.5 million fine.

Blecher represented the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in a lawsuit against the NFL, winning the case that allowed the Oakland Raiders to relocate to Los Angeles.

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