[LA FEATURE]Sterling Firestorm

LA FEATURE

Coverage of the NBA's move to oust Clippers owner Donald Sterling

Wife's Legal Battle Gains Attention Amid Donald Sterling Scandal

Donald Sterling's wife alleges that his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, has received more than $2.5 million worth of property, cars and gifts

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A firestorm of negative reactions and criticisms surrounds Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling, who is alleged to be the voice of a man in an audio recording making racial statements about black men attending his team’s games with his girlfriend.

    Also attached to the controversy are Sterling’s wife, Rochelle Sterling, and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, both of whom are named in a lawsuit that has been gaining attention since the recording’s revelation.

    NBC News has not been able to authenticate the audio, which was first made public by news outlet TMZ Sports.

    The suit is ongoing and will resume in July, according to court documents.

    Sterling’s wife and her attorneys filed a complaint March 7, alleging that Stiviano:

    • Began a sexual relationship with the Clippers’ owner to take advantage of his wealth
    • Received more than $2.5 million from Donald Sterling in the form of property, cars and other gifts
    • Failed to return the money and gifts, which Rochelle Sterling said she technically owns, when asked
    • Continues to reap the benefits of the money, property and gifts she received from Donald Sterling -- possibly in the form of rent and interest

    Sterling’s wife believes her husband and Stiviano began their relationship around the time of the 2010 Super Bowl, according to court documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The complaint said that Donald Sterling either gave, or was duped into giving, the gifts to Stiviano without his wife’s consent.

    Stiviano and her lawyers countered with a response April 21 that said:

    • Stiviano received irrevocable gifts that were given to her, not stolen
    • Rochelle Sterling’s allegations are “theater of the absurd”

    “Nowhere in the complaint is it alleged that … the feminine wiles of Ms. Stiviano overpowered the iron will of Donald T. Sterling who is well known as one of the most shrewd businessmen in the world,” read court documents, obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “Instead of chastising her philandering husband, let alone curtailing his carousing, Mrs. Sterling seeks to punish [Stiviano] who has done nothing wrong.”

    The embattled Clippers owner himself is not named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit involving his wife and girlfriend. But he has been named in two other cases, which are also resurfacing as bones of contention, as they have racial undertones.

    Former basketball star and Clippers executive Elgin Baylor in 2009 filed a lawsuit against Donald Sterling and others, which alleged, according to court documents obtained by ESPN, that:

    • Donald Sterling and others froze his salary and didn’t include him in conversations pertinent to his role as the team’s general manager
    • Donald Sterling said he wanted the Clippers to be composed of “poor black boys from the South,” with a white man as a head coach
    • Sterling and others harassed Baylor about his age and pending retirement

    A couple years later, the jury did not rule in Baylor’s favor.

    Both Sterlings were also named in a case in 2006 in which it was alleged that the couple, as property owners, discriminated against certain races, nationalities and familial statuses, according to court documents obtained by NBC4. Sterling eventually settled, paying millions of dollars.

    Although the tapes have yet to be verified, numerous allusions to Sterlings’ past cases and conduct have been illuminated. Famous figures, tied to basketball and otherwise, have also weighed in.

    During Sunday's playoff game, the Clippers players made a statement of their own, by turning their team-issued gear inside-out.

    On a conference call Monday, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that he and the players are disappointed.

    "We need unbelievable support right now ... and we're hoping we get that tomorrow," he added, in reference to a Game 5 play-off match up between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors set to take place Tuesday at the STAPLES Center.

    The NBA said it is conducting an investigation that is looking into Sterling and his behavior. A press conference is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m. PT.

    Nehoray Legal Group, which represents Stiviano in the case, said in a news release Sunday that the tapes are legitimate and are part of a longer recording about one hour in length.

    Stiviano’s attorney denied that his client leaked the recording to media.

    In response, Andy Roeser, the Clippers’ president, released the following statement in defense of Sterling:

    “Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life.”