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Donald Sterling says he should keep the Los Angeles Clippers because his controversial rant was illegally recorded and none of his other actions violate National Basketball Association rules.
In a 26-page rebuttal delivered Tuesday by his lawyers to the league, which is trying to terminate his ownership, Sterling says the NBA can't use his conversation with his ex-girlfriend V. Stiviano against him because it was private and "he was clearly distraught." The rebuttal also claims, as Sterling has said before, that Stiviano, who has said she wasn’t having a sexual affair with him, baited him into "many of these hurtful comments."
He also challenged the NBA over its use of his recent comments in which he criticized Magic Johnson’s sex life and said the former Lakers star didn't do enough to support the black community — comments that drew angry responses from Johnson and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The rebuttal said that while "Sterling’s opinions may be unpopular and false, they remain opinions."
The rebuttal also tried to compare Sterling's comments to those of singing legend and social activist Harry Belafonte when he pointed to Jay-Z and Beyonce as African Americans who he said had "turned their back on social responsibility."
It goes on to point out that Sterling’s favorite head coach — the Clippers’ Doc Rivers — is African American and "among the most highly paid and respected in the league."
The rebuttal runs through reasons why his actions didn't violate various parts of the NBA constitution, then lists a series of other instances in which players or owners made statements that were overtly or could be construed as bigoted.
Sterling has said he was transferring control of the Clippers to his wife, Shelly, with the intention of selling the team before the league can take it from them — although the rebuttal laments a forced sale would result in a 33 percent capital gains tax.
Bobby Samini, one of Sterling’s lawyers, said Tuesday that Donald Sterling had received offers of more than $2.5 billion for the team, but a lawyer for Shelly Sterling said none of those have been formal offers. NBC Sports recently laid out some of the possibilities of who might buy the team.
But Samini’s statement said the NBA was going ahead with “its illegal termination process” and the rebuttal was the response.