Donald Sterling isn’t going down without a fight.
The disgraced owner of the Los Angeles Clippers refuses to pay the $2.5 million fine levied on him by the NBA, several media outlets report, and is rejecting his lifelong ban from the league.
Not only does Sterling refuse to comply with his punishment, but according to Sports Illustrated and USA Today, his attorneys penned a letter to the NBA threatening a lawsuit if the league does not rescind its sanctions.
The league’s harsh punishments for Sterling were widely hailed as appropriate action against the 80-year-old. However Sterling’s attorney, Maxwell M. Blecher, said the Clippers owner didn’t deserve “any punishment at all” for his now infamous racist remarks.
The $2.5 million fine – the maximum allowed under NBA bylaws – is already past due. But Sterling, who according to Forbes is worth $1.9 billion, refuses to cut the check.
“We reject your demand for payment,” the letter said, according to Sports Illustrated. Sterling’s lawyers contest that he did not breach any article of the NBA constitution, and that the league violated his “due process rights.”
The billionaire’s move to lawyer-up comes as little surprise – the NBA appeared to be bracing for a contentious legal battle over forcing Sterling to sell a team he’s owned since 1981. Now three-quarters of the other 29 team owners must vote to strip Sterling’s ownership, a process Sterling has made clear he plans to fight.
But the league could be working on a tight schedule. Several players, including Miami Heat superstar LeBron James, have threatened to boycott the next season if Sterling maintains ownership of the Clippers.
Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, is also trying to throw a wrench in the league’s plan to strip her husband’s ownership, arguing that she shouldn’t be punished for his remarks. She contends she has legal co-ownership of the team and that the NBA can’t force her to give up.
The Clippers season came to an end Thursday night, when they lost their playoff series to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Following their loss, Clippers star Chris Paul brushed off questions about Sterling, saying the team’s owner had already taken up too much of the spotlight.
“That’s the least of our worries right now is him. We just lost the damn series,” Paul said. “That’s the last thing on our mind. We gave him too much attention as it is.”