NBA alleges Sterling-led Clippers tried to cover up scandal
Donald Sterling tried to persuade companion V. Stiviano to say the Clippers owner was not responsible for the inflammatory statements about blacks after a now infamous audio recording became public, according to the NBA’s 30-page formal allegation that the league is using to try and get Sterling removed as owner.
The charges, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, said that Sterling’s attempt to alter Stiviano’s statements was part of an effort by Sterling — aided by his wife, Shelly, and Clippers President Andy Roeser — to evade responsibility for the recording that has enveloped the Clippers owner in controversy for nearly a month.
One of the six counts issued Monday accuses the Sterling-led Clippers organization of “destroying evidence relating to the recording, providing false and misleading information to [Chief NBA Investigator David] Anders in connection with the commissioner’s investigation of the recording and issuing a false and misleading public statement on April 26 regarding the authenticity of the TMZ recording.”
It also says there is ample evidence that Sterling and his wife are not estranged, as has been suggested. The charges say the couple is “inextricably intertwined” and cites multiple instances of them appearing together, including at Clippers games and in the two days immediately after the recording became public.
The professional basketball league has given Sterling until May 27 to respond to the allegations and a voluminous set of declarations that accompany them. A hearing has been set for June 3 in which Sterling will be able to present his case to 29 other NBA owners, who can remove him by a three-fourths vote.
The NBA’s coverup allegatons are based in part on Anders’ interview with Stiviano, whom Donald Sterling has characterized as a love interest. Stiviano describes herself as an assistant to the NBA owner.
Stiviano told Anders that Sterling met with her on May 2, shortly before she was interviewed by ABC’s Barbara Walters. Sterling asked Stiviano to tell the NBA that she lied in her previous meeting with the league. The billionaire owner wanted her to tell the league investigators that the voice on the recording was not his and that she had altered the recording, Stiviano told the investigators. Sterling also allegedly tried to bring a quiet close to his wife’s lawsuit against Stiviano, which sought to recover some of her husband’s money used to buy Stiviano a home and several luxury cars.
Stiviano said Donald Sterling requested that she pay Shelly Sterling to settle the lawsuit, filed in 2013, and that he would return the money to Stiviano through “back channels.”
Sterling’s attorney, Max Blecher, did not respond to a request to comment on the new allegations against his client.
A Sterling associate, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the charges, called the new NBA’s claims “a smear” and said that the owner’s team had not had a chance to review all of the new claims.
“The NBA has the recording in full and there has been no destruction or alteration of any evidence,” said the Sterling associate. “It’s going to be a non-issue. They are just throwing some mud up against the wall to see what sticks.”
The NBA accusation suggests that Sterling and others in the Clippers organization knew about the recording even earlier and made attempts to prevent it from becoming public.
Team President Roeser received a copy of the recording on April 9 from another employee of the team, who had gotten it from Stiviano, the charges allege. That was more than two weeks before the April 25 posting of the recording by the website TMZ.
After Roeser told Sterling about the recording, Roeser, on Sterling’s orders, told the unnamed employee to delete it from a phone, along with all related text messages, the NBA charges say.
“The employee at first questioned Mr. Roeser, asking him if he was sure that the employee should delete the files,” the declaration said. “Mr. Roeser said he was sure.”
The Sterling associate said the accusations about Clippers employees and the recording that came prior to the TMZ posting were of little import. At that point, the recording was merely a private conversation between two adults and had no material impact on the Clippers or the rest of the NBA, the Sterling ally said.
The NBA charges say that, the day after the recording became public, Sterling, his wife and Roeser huddled in a San Francisco hotel room, where they were awaiting that night’s playoff game against the Golden State Warriors.
The group helped work out a statement from the Clippers which said, in part: “We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or if it has been altered.”
Roeser issued that statement for the team “falsely questioning the legitimacy and authenticity of the recording,” the NBA alleged.
Neither Roeser nor Shelly Sterling’s attorney immediately responded to requests for comment.
The reaction to the recording was “swift and severe,” according to the NBA charges. “The words, actions and views of Mr. Sterling had an immediate, devastating, and material adverse impact on the NBA and its member teams (including the Clippers)” the league charged, “and will continue to have a devastating and material adverse impact on the NBA and its member teams so long as any of the current owners retains any ownership interest in the team.”
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