Donald Sterling suing NBA for $2bn as LA Clippers row continues

The billionaire's lawyers called the recording of him making racist remarks 'illegal'

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The Independent Online

Donald Sterling is suing the US National Basketball Association (NBA) for $2 billion (£1.2 billion) damages for relying on an “illegal” recording of him making alleged racist remarks.

His lawyers claim the organisation violated the billionaire’s constitutional rights, committed a breach of contract by fining him and violating anti-trust laws by forcing a sale.

The NBA has called off a hearing to oust him as owner of the LA Clippers before a vote on a deal negotiated by his estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion (£1.2 million).

It is the latest twist in the long and increasingly bitter saga that started when an audio recording emerged on the gossip website TMZ of him arguing with his assistant, model V Stiviano, about her posting a picture on Instagram posing with Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson.

The embattled 80-year-old previously refused to pay a $2.5 million (£1.5 million) fine levied against him by the NBA, who banned him from the organisation for life.

Mr Sterling has insisted he is not racist but the NBA charged him with damaging the group with the comments and set a date in June for co-owners to terminate his control of the Clippers.

There have been increasing questions about his mental health and two neurologists determined he was suffering from dementia earlier this month, according to a person close to the Sterling family.

The person said Mr Sterling was deemed “mentally incapacitated” because he showed “an inability to conduct business affairs in a reasonable and normal manner”.

He is still identified as a co-trustee for the team in legal papers and his lawyer, Bobby Samini, said claims that over his mental wellbeing are “absurd”.

A spokesman for the NBA called Mr Sterling’s attempt to win damages “predictable but entirely baseless”.

Rick Buchanan said: “Among other infirmities, there was no ‘forced sale’ of his team by the NBA — which means his anti-trust and conversion claims are completely invalid.

“Since it was his wife Shelly Sterling, and not the NBA, that has entered into an agreement to sell the Clippers, Mr Sterling is complaining about a set of facts that doesn't even exist.”

Mr Sterling’s lawyers argue that he still needs to approve any sale and will not give permission for the team to be transferred to Mr Ballmer.

Additional reporting by Associated Press