US & Canada

Lawyer: Donald Sterling 'won't sell LA Clippers'

Donald Sterling (21 April 2014) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sterling said the team was not for sale

LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling has reversed course and decided not to sell the team to ex-Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer, his lawyer has said.

Mr Sterling, 80, will also pursue a lawsuit against the National Basketball Association (NBA), which he had said he would drop, Maxwell Blecher said.

Mr Ballmer was set to buy the team for $2bn (£1.2bn).

Mr Sterling was fined $2.5m and banned for life from the league after racist comments he made became public.

On Monday evening, Mr Blecher told the Associated Press news agency that Mr Sterling had decided not to support a deal to sell the team to Mr Ballmer.

The sale had been brokered by Mr Sterling's wife Shelly.

In April, an audio recording surfaced in which Mr Sterling appeared to be telling a woman, subsequently identified as his girlfriend or companion V Stiviano, not to associate in public with black people nor to bring them to Clippers games.

The remarks, published on celebrity news and gossip website TMZ, drew widespread scorn from everyone from retired basketball legends to current stars to President Barack Obama.

Soon after, the NBA's leadership banned Mr Sterling from the game for life, fined him, and moved to force him to sell the team.

Mr Sterling sued the league, alleging it had violated his constitutional rights by relying on information from an "illegal" recording in taking action against him.

He also sought damages for the forceful termination of his ownership.

On 4 June, Mr Blecher told reporters his client had agreed to the sale to Mr Ballmer and had decided to drop his legal action against the NBA.

Explaining the reversal of course, Mr Blecher said on Monday that Mr Sterling changed his mind upon learning the NBA would not revoke the ban and fine after the sale.

In a statement to NBC News, Mr Sterling said categorically "I intend to fight to keep the team".

"From the onset, I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers," he said in the statement, according to NBC. "I have worked for 33 years to build the team."

He apologised for the "hurtful statements I made privately" and said NBA commissioner Adam Silver acted illegally and in haste with the fine, ban and forced sale.

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