Clippers legal update: Elgin Baylor on Donald Sterling
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Hall of Famer and former Clippers executive Elgin Baylor offered several instances of what he called team owner Donald Sterling’s “plantation mentality” and alleged that Sterling once rejected a coaching candidate because of race, according to court documents obtained by The Times.
Baylor’s contentions came under questioning from Sterling’s lawyer in a deposition in Baylor’s lawyer’s office nearly a year ago. They were contained in voluminous court documents supporting motions for summary judgment from the Clippers and the NBA.
Those motions are typical in a legal dispute of this nature and were filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court. Sterling’s attorney and Clippers’ general counsel Robert Platt would not comment on a motion pending before the court.
Also revealed in the filings was that the Clippers had offered Baylor, on Aug. 13, 2008, a retirement package consisting of a contract as a consultant. This would have paid him $120,000 for the next year and then operated on a month-to-month basis, plus four season tickets for the next three years and other perks. Baylor never signed the deal and did not offer a counterproposal.
“I didn’t discuss any terms,” Baylor said in the deposition, referring to his brief meeting with team President Andy Roeser. “I just told him this was insulting and I just can’t believe this. I just thought it was ridiculous.”
Not long after that, Baylor sued Sterling, the Clippers and the NBA for wrongful termination, alleging race and age discrimination. He was the Clippers’ general manager for 22 years and the team made the playoffs four times in his tenure.
In court papers, Baylor said that Jim Brewer, then an assistant with the Clippers, wanted the chance to interview for the head coaching job after Bill Fitch was dismissed following the 1997-98 season.
“I believe he [Sterling] was a little reluctant at first but I said, ‘We owe him that courtesy.’ So we go there and we sit down and Brewer starts talking about his qualifications, that he believed he could do the job of being the head coach,” Baylor said in court papers.
“And when he finished, Donald said something that was very shocking to me. He said, ‘Personally, I would like to have a white Southern coach coaching poor black players. And I was shocked. And he looked at me and said, ‘Do you think that’s a racist statement?’ I said, ‘Absolutely. That’s plantation mentality.”
Years later, Alvin Gentry, an African American, was hired by Sterling and coached the Clippers for two-plus seasons before he was let go in 2002-03.
The deposition also touches on the Danny Manning contract negotiations, which were mentioned in the initial court papers filed by Baylor’s legal team in 2008.
Manning was the No. 1 draft pick overall in the 1988 draft. Baylor, in the deposition, incorrectly said it was the 1989 draft. Negotiations became contentious and Baylor spoke about a meeting at Sterling’s house among Manning and his representatives and Clippers officials.
When Manning’s agent told Sterling that the offer was unacceptable, Sterling responded by saying it was a lot of money.
Said Baylor, in the deposition: “Donald T. said, ‘Well that’s a lot of money for a poor black ... ' -- I think he said kid. For a poor black kid I think. For a poor black something, kid or boy or something. Poor black. Poor black.
“Danny was upset. So Danny just stormed out. He just stormed out of the place. Where he went, I don’t know. He never came back to the house.”
Earlier, Platt asked Baylor about Sterling’s direct treatment of him, hitting at the heart of the case.
Platt: “Did Mr. Sterling ever make any racist statement toward you?”
Baylor: “Toward me, personally?”
Baylor: “Not that I can recall.”
He had a similar answer when asked about the Clippers organization.
Platt: “Did you ever hear anybody affiliated with the team make racist comments about you?”
Platt: “Did Mr. Sterling ever tell you that he paid you less because of your race?”