(Reuters) - The attorney for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has told the NBA his client won’t pay a league-issued $2.5 million fine, and that he will fight league punishment over his racist comments, Sports Illustrated reported.
Sterling was banned for life by league commissioner Adam Silver and threatened with the forced sale of his team after an audio recording surfaced last month of a conversation in which he berated a female friend for publicly associating with black people.
Sterling’s lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, wrote in a letter to NBA executive vice president and general counsel Rick Buchanan that his client had done nothing wrong and does not deserve punishment, and that the matter “will be adjudicated,” Sports Illustrated reported late on Thursday, citing unnamed sources.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the report, and representatives for Sterling and the NBA did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
The letter was in apparent contrast to an interview Sterling gave this week to CNN in which he offered a televised apology for his “terrible mistake” and seemed to express resignation about NBA moves to force a sale of the team he has owned for more than three decades.
“What’s at the end of the road? What’s the benefit, especially at my age?” he told CNN when asked if he intended to fight the NBA to keep his franchise.
Under NBA rules, the removal of a team owner requires the assent of 75 percent of the other 29 team owners.
Sterling’s wife, Shelly, who has co-owned the team with her husband since 1981, said in an interview with ABC News earlier this week that she would fight any attempt to force her to sell.
The NBA responded by saying that, under the league’s constitution, the interests of all other owners of a team come to an end when the controlling owner’s stake is terminated.
The Clippers were eliminated from the second round of the NBA playoffs on Thursday night after the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated them four games to two in the best-of-seven series.
The NBA last week installed Richard Parsons, a former Time Warner chief executive and chairman, as interim chief executive of the Clippers. Parsons was appointed three days after Sterling’s long-time top lieutenant, Andy Roeser, was placed on indefinite leave as team president.
Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson