By Steve Almasy, CNN
(CNN) — The 30-page NBA document detailing the charges against Donald Sterling accuses the longtime owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of trying to persuade V. Stiviano to tell a league investigator she altered a recording and it wasn’t Sterling making racist remarks on the audio, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
On Monday, the NBA released a summary of the charges that could lead to NBA owners voting to strip Sterling and his wife, Shelly, of the franchise they have co-owned for 33 years.
In it, the NBA said: “In the course of the investigation into Mr. Sterling’s conduct, it was discovered that relevant evidence was destroyed, false and misleading evidence was provided to the NBA’s investigator, and LAC issued a false and misleading press statement regarding this matter.”
The Times reported that the NBA document it obtained alleges Donald Sterling and Stiviano met on May 2, about a week after the recording containing racist remarks was released by TMZ and just before Stiviano was interviewed by Barbara Walters on ABC.
“Sterling asked Stiviano to tell the NBA that she lied in her previous meeting with the league,” the Times reported.
The newspaper also reported the NBA is prepared to argue at a June 3 meeting of the NBA Board of Governors that evidence shows that Sterling and his wife are not estranged and that she helped prepare the team’s press release after the recordings were aired. Team President Andy Roeser also was in on the drafting of the statement that questioned the validity of the recording and suggested it was released by someone seeking revenge against Donald Sterling, according to the newspaper’s account of the NBA document.
The Times report also said the NBA suggested Roeser heard the recording on April 9, weeks before it went online, after a Clippers employee sent Roeser a copy.The document says Roeser told the employee to delete the audio file and text messages about it from a cell phone. Roeser is now on indefinite leave from the team.
The paper said Sterling’s lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
When asked by a CNN producer at a Tuesday news conference what evidence had been destroyed, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the investigation.
NBA commissioner feels certain league will oust Sterlings
Silver said on Tuesday he is confident the league will be able to force the Sterlings to sell the franchise for violating the NBA constitution.
But, the new commissioner said, he would prefer the Sterlings sell the team without the league’s pushing.
The chances of that happening appear unlikely. Sterling, through his lawyer, has sent a letter to the league saying he won’t pay a $2.5 million fine and threatening to sue if he isn’t afforded due process.
Shelly Sterling has said she wants to maintain her 50% stake in the franchise.
Team owners behaving badly Team owners behaving badly
“It is their team to sell,” Silver, who has been commissioner for three months, said ahead of the league’s draft lottery. “(They) know what the league’s point of view is. If (they) wanted to sell the team on some reasonable timetable, I prefer (they) sell it than we go through this process.”
On Monday, the National Basketball Association officially started the process of terminating the Sterlings’ ownership rights. It sent Donald Sterling a list of charges that the billionaire real estate investor has until May 27 to answer.
The league scheduled the June 3 special board of governors meeting for each side to present evidence.
Silver also addressed CNN’s question about a report that Sterling demanded a three-month extension, saying the 80-year-old owner needed to abide by the NBA constitution, which puts a firm timeline on the process of removing an ownership group.
In order to terminate the Sterlings’ franchise rights, 75% (23) of the 30 team owners would have to vote to sustain the charge and force a sale. Because Sterling is banned from any NBA activities, he is not allowed to vote, but the Clippers will have a vote, the NBA said.
In the case of a forced sale, the league does have a duty to the Sterlings to sell the team for the highest possible price, Silver said. The commissioner told reporters if it gets to that point, the league will hire investment bankers to conduct the sale.
The league said it has been damaged by Sterling’s racist remarks to Stiviano, which were posted online in April by TMZ and aired in an interview with CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Silver expressed confidence that eventually a new group will own the Clippers, who, led by all-stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs this season before losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Some analysts have said the team could be worth more than $1 billion. Forbes magazine lists the franchise’s value at $575 million.
“We know we’re doing the right thing and I know I have the owners behind me,” Silver said.
The commissioner said he is more than upset by the controversy that has many analysts focused on Sterling instead of what is happening in the playoffs.
“It was something deeper than anger,” he said.
CNN interview damages Sterling’s case
In an exclusive interview with CNN’s “AC 360” last week, Sterling talked about his relationship with Stiviano and racism in America, and he trashed Magic Johnson and other minorities.
“That’s one problem I have. Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people. And some of the African-Americans, maybe I’ll get in trouble again, they don’t want to help anybody,” said Sterling, who is Jewish.
Some owners said privately — and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said publicly — after the scandal first unfolded that it would be difficult to vote on removing an owner for a personal conversation. CNN’s Rachel Nichols told Cooper on Monday that his interview has changed some minds, according to NBA insiders she had spoken with in the past week.
“If there were any owners who were concerned about should we be kicking someone out for a private tape, (they) now feel more comfortable,” she said. “Because Donald Sterling went on television with you and made statements that were abhorrent to so many people, they feel as if they are on much firmer ground to kick him out.”
Last week, Sterling hired Blecher, an antitrust lawyer who has worked with him in the past, to fight the NBA. Blecher’s office has had no comment to CNN.
Shelly Sterling has said she wants to keep an ownership stake in the team but doesn’t want to be the controlling partner.
Her attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, said Monday she still hopes to resolve the “dispute with the NBA.”
“Based on our initial assessment, we continue to believe there is no lawful basis for stripping Shelly Sterling of her 50% ownership interest in the Clippers. She is the innocent estranged spouse,” O’Donnell said.
But the NBA said Donald Sterling’s remarks are deemed actions of the entire ownership group.
In his interview with Cooper, Sterling repeatedly denied he is a racist but said he made a mistake making the remarks that were recorded.
In the recording, which drew widespread condemnation from fans, players and the league after it appeared on TMZ, Sterling chastises Stiviano for posting pictures online of herself with African-Americans, including NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson. He tells her not to bring Johnson to Clippers games.
“Admire him, bring him here, feed him, f**k him, but don’t put (Magic) on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me,” he said.
“In your lousy f**ing Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with — walking with black people,” he said during a different portion of the recording.
Stiviano, who has largely avoided the media since the scandal began, is scheduled to appear on the “Dr. Phil” show on Wednesday.
Sterling, who has owned the team since 1981, said he was baited into making the remarks.
The Clippers’ turbulent season ended last week in a 104-98 loss to Oklahoma City. The Thunder won the series four games to two.