Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling asked former girlfriend V. Stiviano to deny to the NBA that he made racist comments during the infamous leaked audio recording that has put his stake in the team in jeopardy, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
The Times obtained a 30-page document detailing the NBA’s charges against the billionaire that it hopes will make the case to remove him as owner of the Clippers and from the league for life. Sterling was allegedly helped by his wife, Shelly, and Clippers President Andy Roeser in a coverup to repudiate allegations that he's a racist.
The NBA issued six counts against Sterling, including accusations that he destroyed evidence, lied to the league’s chief investigator David Anders and issued a false statement about the leaked recording on April 26. The league also alleges that other members of the Clippers organization knew about the recording and tried to stop it from going public.
Stiviano reportedly told Anders that she met with Sterling on May 2, after her interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters. During that meeting, the 80-year-old allegedly asked Stiviano to tell the league it wasn't his voice on the salacious recording and that she lied in her initial statements and had altered the recording.
“The NBA has the recording in full and there has been no destruction or alteration of any evidence,” an unnamed Sterling associate told The Times, adding that the owner's team hadn't had a chance to review all of the new claims. “It’s going to be a non-issue. They are just throwing some mud up against the wall to see what sticks.”
The league also alleged in its report that Sterling and his wife aren't estranged, as has been suggested, and that she helped prepare the team’s public statement after the recordings surfaced. Shelly, who was also interviewed by Walters, has said she will fight the league to keep her stake in the Clippers, who have been valued as high as $575 million by Forbes but could fetch upward of $1 billion in a sale given the lucrative Los Angeles market and television rights' deals.
Sterling’s attorney, Max Blecher, didn't respond to a request from The Times to comment on the new allegations against his client. The newspaper said that attorneys for Roeser and Shelly Sterling also didn't immediately responded to requests for comment.
Roeser’s inclusion in the charges is the first time he’s been accused of anything during the scandal. He reportedly drafted three different statements to address the recording when it first came out, ESPN reported. The first took full responsibility for Sterling’s comments, a second questioned the legitimacy of the recordings, and the third said the team would thoroughly cooperate with the NBA’s investigation. Roeser preferred the third statement, but Sterling insisted on denying the accusations with the second option.
Sterling has until May 27 to respond to the charges, and he can make his case to the league’s 29 other owners at a hearing set for June 3. Depending on the outcome of the hearing, the owners will then decide whether to oust Sterling as owner, with a three-fourths majority necessary to vote him out.
On April 25, TMZ posted a recording on its website in which Sterling made racist remarks about blacks, specifically questioning why Stiviano was bringing blacks to Clipper games, taking pictures with them and posting the photos to her Instagram account.
After the recording was released, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver responded to the outcry from players and fans by banning Sterling from the league for life and fining him $2.5 million.
Sterling has thus far refused to pay the fine or to give up ownership of the team, and a prolonged legal battle is expected.