The NBA moved Monday to dismiss Donald Sterling's federal lawsuit against the league, saying that the former Clippers owner seeks "to portray himself as a victim of a variety of imagined and meritless legal wrongs."
The filing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles is the latest move in Sterling’s 10-month legal tussle with the NBA over the sale of the franchise that he owned for 33 years.
Last month, Sterling expanded the lawsuit to include his wife, Rochelle; two doctors who found him mentally incapable of continuing as a member of the family trust that owned the Clippers; and former NBA Commissioner David Stern.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who banned Sterling for life last year after his inflammatory remarks about African Americans became public, is also a defendant.
Sterling alleged that the parties engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to remove him as owner of the Clippers.
“Rather than accept responsibility for the incalculable harm he caused and threatened to cause the NBA and the Clippers, Mr. Sterling instead brought this lawsuit,” the NBA’s motion said.
The filing assailed Sterling’s amended complaint as “baseless.”
“Ignoring both the Court and defense counsel, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint that retained virtually all of the legally deficient claims and added new claims related to matters he litigated and lost in state court,” the motion said. “Under such circumstances, Mr. Sterling should not be allowed a third bite at the apple.”
Bobby Samini, Sterling’s attorney, described the NBA’s motion as a “bullying tactic.”
“I think this is a case where they’ve got some real exposure,” Samini said.
The NBA, which countersued Sterling last August, also asked the federal court to dismiss Stern as a defendant because no “legally cognizable claim” is stated.
Last July, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the sale of the Clippers could proceed as part of a sweeping decision against Sterling. He is appealing.
Rochelle Sterling indemnified the NBA against any litigation by her husband as part of the agreement to sell the Clippers to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, meaning that the former owner is, in essence, suing himself.
About $1 billion of the sale proceeds remain in an escrow account controlled by the NBA, according to Samini.
The attorney said that Sterling’s desire to fight the NBA remains as strong as ever. Last summer, Sterling pledged to sue the league for the rest of his life.
“I can tell you that his position really has been unchanged,” Samini said. “I’d say he has even more conviction now. It’s one thing if someone makes you sell your prized possession. It’s another if they make you sell it and won’t release all of the money to you.”