As Donald Sterling is fighting back against the NBA for banning him for life and imposing a fine, the embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner released a statement to NBC News saying "the team is not for sale."
"The NBA's focus is the sale of the team. That's all they're talking about," said Bobby Samini, Sterling's attorney, in an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer Tuesday on TODAY. His client, Samini said, is being "singled out" by "a band of hypocrites."
It's a surprising reversal for Sterling, who, along with his wife, had previously indicated they would accept a $2 billion sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Samini said Sterling didn’t think the lifetime ban would stand if he agreed to the sale.
“I’m not going to go into the particulars of the discussions, but that clearly wasn’t the understanding,” Samini said. “Of course Adam Silver has come out now and made it clear that he’s not going to back off.”
"I think there was a time to have a discussion," Samini said Tuesday. "There was a time to try and have a resolution to this matter, but again, (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver has made it clear that he's going to go forward. They want to get this team sold. That's all they care about."
In the statement Monday, Sterling apologized and lashed out at the NBA and Silver, who imposed the lifetime ban after racist comments Sterling made that were recorded by his former companion V. Stiviano.
Samini insisted his client's mental state is sound, saying "there is no issue as to his mental capacity," and that any suggestion otherwise amounts to "very good legal tactics."
Shelly Sterling and the NBA had no comment Tuesday to NBC News.
Sterling's full statement is below.
“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,” Sterling said.
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.
Now, Samini told Matt Lauer, Donald Sterling is determined to demonstrate what he says is the hypocrisy of the NBA.
Fellow team owners could, through a three-quarters vote, oust him. Before that happens, Samini said, Sterling will highlight cases of discrimination the NBA has battled, including one gender-based case that was settled last year.
“We can look at the NBA’s own record,” Samini said. “There are four cases...that involved discriminatory conduct that was gender-based. This is a common practice for the NBA, and I’m not talking about the teams. I’m talking about the NBA itself.
“If you’re going to come after Sterling, maybe it’s time for the NBA to take a close reflection on their own conduct.”