In a sudden about-face, Donald Sterling said Monday night he intends to “fight to keep" the Los Angeles Clippers.
“From the onset, I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. I have worked for 33 years to build the Team,” Sterling said in a statement released to NBC News titled “The Team is not for Sale.”
Sterling’s lawyers had announced last Wednesday that Sterling and his wife, Shelly, had agreed to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion and various additional benefits.
But Monday, Sterling’s lawyer, Donald Blecher, told the Associated Press, "We have been instructed to prosecute the lawsuit." He said co-owner Donald Sterling would not be signing off on the deal to sell.
The $2 billion sale to Ballmer was negotiated by Shelly Sterling after Donald Sterling's racist remarks to a girlfriend were publicized and the NBA moved to oust him as owner.
The lawsuit alleges the league violated his constitutional rights by relying on information from an "illegal" recording that publicized racist remarks he made to a girlfriend. It also said the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling $2.5 million and that it violated antitrust laws by trying to force a sale.
Donald Sterling agreed to ink the deal and drop the suit last week assuming "all their differences had been resolved," his attorneys said. But he decided to not sign the papers after learning the NBA won't revoke its lifetime ban and fine, according to the AP.
Here’s the full statement Sterling released to NBC News:
“I would like to clarify some issues regarding the Los Angeles Clippers and affiliated matters. From the onset, I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. I have worked for 33 years to build the Team.
“To be clear, I am extremely sorry for the hurtful statements I made privately. I made those statements in anger and out of jealousy all in the context of a private conversation. While this is not an excuse for the statements, like every other American, I never imagined that my private conversation would be made public.
“Many things have been said about me in the media which are not true. I believe that Adam Silver acted in haste by illegally ordering the forced sale of the Clippers, banning me for life from the NBA and imposing the fine. Adam Silver’s conduct in doing so without conducting any real investigation was wrong.
“The action taken by Adam Silver and the NBA constitutes a violation of my rights and fly in the face of the freedoms that are afforded to all Americans.
“I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights. While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled.
“I love the team and have dedicated 33 years of my life to the organization. I intend to fight to keep the Team.”
An individual familiar with the negotiations who wasn't authorized to speak publicly told the AP that there were two options for Sterling — to either sign or go to court. But even if he wins in court, he's ultimately going to be paying himself the damages the individual said because his wife has agreed to indemnify the NBA against all lawsuits, including by her husband.