BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Elgin Baylor said Thursday he was "traumatized" by a "take it or leave it" offer to retire as the general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers and serve as a consultant for one season for less than half his salary.
"I remain mentally and emotionally devastated," Baylor said of the offer made last August as he read from a prepared statement at a news conference at his lawyers' Beverly Hills office to discuss his age and racial discrimination lawsuit against the NBA team.
Baylor had served as the Clippers general manager from 1986 until last year, when the team announced on Oct. 7 he was "moving on" and coach Mike Dunleavy would assume his duties.
"I did not retire," Baylor said. "I have so much more to give. The way I was treated by the NBA and the Clippers was unfair, and many ways discriminatory. It was wrong. We are forced to take this action because our efforts to resolve this dispute quietly were essentially ignored, so I look forward to having my day in court."
Carl E. Douglas, one of the lawyers representing Baylor, said "there was nothing that was said to us that gave us any indication that they were interested in resolving his matter fairly."
In a statement, Clippers general consul Robert H. Platt said, "now that they have staged their press conference, it has become even more apparent that the decision to bring the suit was driven by publicity-seeking attorneys hoping to draw attention to themselves."
"Their false claims carry no weight and have no credibility," Platt said. "Elgin Baylor was with the Clippers for 22 years and he received numerous salary increases and was always treated well."
Platt said Baylor "chose to resign," rejecting "the opportunity to continue with the organization as a paid consultant or stay in his current job."
"During Elgin's tenure, the other NBA teams employed over 125 general managers with an average tenure of less than five years," Platt said. "In fact, despite the team's poor draft history and record, Elgin was the NBA's longest serving general manager when he chose to resign.
"People can judge for themselves the results of his performance during his 22 years on the job. We stand by our assertion that Elgin was always treated fairly and honorably."
The 74-year-old Baylor, who is black, filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming he was "unceremoniously released" from his job last year because of his age and race.
In addition to the team, owner Donald Sterling, team president Andy Roeser and the league are also named as defendants. The suit seeks unspecified economic damages, compensation for Baylor's "severe emotional distress," punitive damages and attorney's fees.
Douglas called Baylor "an icon in this city," and "a city treasure," references to his playing days with the Los Angeles Lakers, which led him to being selected as a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and one of the 50 greatest players of the NBA's first 50 years.
"For them to treat Elgin Baylor after dedicating 22 years of his hard work, his sweat and his tears, this organization is indeed an abomination," Douglas said.
According to the 22-page lawsuit, Baylor was "grossly underpaid when compared to the salaries of non-black NBA general managers," and his salary was frozen "at a comparatively paltry $350,000 since 2003.
Baylor said he remained in the position because "of the shortage blacks in the executive roles in the NBA, I felt obligated to hang in there and endure whatever came my way."
Baylor said he only had a contract during his first six years with the Clippers.
From 1993 until leaving the organization, "I was told I did not need a formal written agreement," Baylor said
"Donald Sterling always assured me whenever I asked about my contract situation, my salary, that I was a lifer, that I would remain a part of the Clipper family until I decided to retire," Baylor said.
Baylor said that "sometime before the 2006 season" Roeser "started harassing me about my age."
Roeser would repeatedly ask Baylor how old he was and "when are you planning to retire," Baylor said.
After the Clippers reached the Western Conference semifinals in 2006 for the first time since moving to the West Coast in 1978 and Baylor was named as the league's executive of the year in a poll conducted by The Sporting News, Dunleavy received a four-year, $22 million contract, and was given most of what had been Baylor's duties, Baylor said.
The suit said during the summer of 2008 Baylor "received the majority of his information involving contract negotiations with" players Corey Maggette and Elton Brand "in the same manner as interested fans and supporters, through the public news media."
Baylor said "working for Donald Sterling is never easy."
"I was often forced to work under challenging conditions," Baylor said. "The authority granted to me was too limited and restricted. For the position that I held, it was working with one hand tied behind my back."
The Clippers have long had the reputation of failing to offer their players enough money to stay with the team, or being able to entice free agents with lucrative contracts.
The suit accuses Sterling of having "a pervasive and ongoing racist attitude expressed to then-NBA player Danny Manning during contract negotiations."
The suit alleges that in a 1988 meeting after Manning was the first player chosen in the NBA Draft, Sterling said of Manning, "I'm offering a lot of money for a poor black kid," and NBA Commissioner David Stern was present when Sterling made the comment.
The NBA does not comment on pending litigation, Brian McIntyre, the league's senior vice president of basketball communications, told City News Service.
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from Manning, now an assistant coach with the University of Kansas men's basketball team.
The suit accuses Sterling of having a "vision of a Southern plantation type structure" for the team, with "poor black kids from the South ... playing for a white coach."