Details from the ongoing situation surrounding Donald Sterling and the Los Angeles Clippers, including alleged lying to league officials and information on how the audio tapes were initially made public, came to light Friday morning in a story by James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times.
Based on information from the NBA's investigation into the days and weeks prior to TMZ releasing audio of Sterling making offensive and racist remarks to girlfriend V. Stiviano, Rainey reveals some key information as to how things went down before commissioner Adam Silver laid out the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine for Sterling last month.
It's a lengthy piece with a lot to parse, but here are some of the notable aspects of the article.
How the recordings were made
There's been a good deal of speculation concerning how and why Stiviano was recording private conversations with Sterling, but Rainey says she "often recorded Sterling on her iPhone, to try to teach him a lesson about how poorly he came across at times."
According to her lawyers, on a day in mid-September 2013, Stiviano recorded an argument the two were having after Sterling became upset that she had posted a picture with Magic Johnson on social media. Six months later, after Shelly Sterling personally served Stiviano a lawsuit at a VIP lounge in Staples Center, "she gave copies of the recording to friends for 'safekeeping.'"
One of her friends likely sold the tapes to TMZ, Stiviano told investigators. Last month, she said to the L.A. Times that she was "devastated" that someone had released the tapes to media, though it's also been reported she has over 100 hours of recordings on Sterling.
Lying to the league
Of greater concern to the NBA is the possibility that Sterling lied to, or conspired to lie to, league officials regarding the content of the tapes. According to Rainey, Sterling insisted to NBA investigator David B. Anders that the tapes were doctored and must be viewed through the context of Stiviano's lawsuit against the Clippers owner.
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He also told Anders that he had not specifically referenced African-Americans on the tapes and only knew his companion as "V," unaware of what her last name actually was.
However, Anders says that Sterling was informed of the tapes by team president Andy Roeser in early April, after Stiviano sent a threatening text message to a Clippers employee upon learning that her accommodations at Staples Center had been revoked.
At that time, a few weeks before the TMZ revelation, Roeser reportedly told the employee to delete Stiviano's messages. The employee "at first questioned Mr. Roeser, asking him if he was sure that the employee should delete the files. Mr. Roeser said he was sure," Anders told Rainey.
Sterling (and wife Shelly) have offered some bizarre defenses for his remarks, but he's consistently denied having knowledge of the recording. With this information, the NBA's counter-argument just gained a lot of weight.
Blackmail in both directions
Adding to the ugliness in wake of Sterling's discovery of the tapes, the Clippers owner reportedly tried to blackmail Stiviano into misleading NBA investigators. On May 2, shortly before her interview on ABC with Barbara Walters, Sterling told Stiviano she should "falsely state to the NBA that the voice on the recording was not Mr. Sterling's."
He wanted her to backtrack and tell the league she had made up the entire situation, and apparently used blackmail to pressure her:
The Clippers owner also proposed to make Shelly Sterling's lawsuit go away: Stiviano should "pay the full value of the claim asserted in the lawsuit," said Anders' statement, and Sterling would "return the value of that payment to Ms. Stiviano through back channels."
Stiviano responded by asking Sterling to repeat the same request under the presence of her lawyers, at which point Sterling got upset and left.
There's still a good deal we don't know about the inner workings of the Sterling family and its prized basketball franchise, but this information could be important as the NBA seeks to force a change of ownership in Los Angeles. Already, we've seen Sterling hire a prominent anti-trust lawyer and inform the league of his plans to fight the punishment, so the NBA will need to come ready with a plan and some serious ammunition.
However, these revelations from the league's investigation indicate Commissioner Silver and company should be prepared. If Sterling decides that he wants a fight in court, it appears he will have some serious evidence to argue against.