The interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers testified Tuesday that coach Doc Rivers told him he will quit if Donald Sterling remains the owner of the team.
CEO Richard Parsons made the statement at the trial to determine whether Sterling's wife Shelly Sterling can sell the team for $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
The testimony comes on the same day Donald Sterling filed a civil lawsuit against Shelly, the NBA and league Commissioner Adam Silver, alleging the NBA violated corporate law by trying to sell the franchise, and claims breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, ESPN reported.
The NBA has tried to force out Donald Sterling since soon after racist statements emerged on recordings in April.
"Doc is troubled by this maybe moreso than anybody else," Parsons said on the witness stand about Rivers, who is black. "If Mr. Sterling continues as owner, he does not want to continue as coach."
Parsons said he fears there would also be an exodus of key players, including team captain Chris Paul, who also is black and heads the NBA players union.
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Parsons was about to give an account of his conversations with Paul but was stopped by an objection by an NBA lawyer who said it would be an invasion of privacy. The judge upheld the objection.
Rivers has said he had heard from other Clippers business employees that they didn't think they would be able to work for Sterling under the circumstances.
Parsons is a former chief executive at Time Warner and Citigroup who took over leadership of the Clippers in May during the media blitz surrounding the banishment of Sterling.
Under questioning by Ballmer's lawyer, Parsons said the departure of Rivers would begin "a death spiral" for the Clippers.
"If Doc were to leave, that would be a disaster," Parsons said. "Doc is the father figure, the one who leads. He's the coach. He's the grown-up. He is able to connect with people and earn their trust. The team believes in him and loves him.
"If he were to leave, that is only going to accelerate the death spiral," Parson said.
Parsons, who is considered an expert in the management of major corporations, said he was certain that sponsors would pull out and season ticket holders would demand their money back if Donald Sterling remains as owner.
"If your coach leaves, if your players don't want to play with you, what do you have?" Parsons asked. "If your sponsors leave and the fans leave, it's going to spiral down and down."
He said key sponsors such as Mandalay Bay Resorts in Las Vegas are cold about whether they will continue, as are other companies including Kia Motors Corp.
"We have a bunch of sponsors sitting at the edge of the pool and they don't want to go in if the Sterlings are there," Parsons said.
Parsons also said he doesn't believe that anyone will offer as much money for the team as Ballmer.
"Mr. Parsons told us in chilling language that the Clippers are on a death spiral," Shelly's attorney Pierce O'Donnell said outside court. "And the longer that Donald Sterling is there, the longer that he's suing everybody and the longer that he seeks the hold onto the team, the value of our beloved Clippers will plummet. It will drop like a rock. We're here to prevent that."
Donald's attorney Bobby Samini argued the team could have sold for more money had they not rushed to move him out.
"They put this whole thing together in seven or eight days, and they think that is the best possible deal to sell an asset that is clearly worth $2 billion dollars, maybe more," Samini said. "Everybody wants to stay that if Donald Sterling's there, the Clippers are going to go away, and I just don't think that's realistic, I think that's more of a scare tactic."
Shelly Sterling also was on the witness list Tuesday along with Dean Bonham, an expert on sponsorship and marketing issues who is also the president of an NBA franchise.
The high-stakes financial fight centers on whether Shelly Sterling was authorized to make a deal with Ballmer on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust.
A source close to the case told NBC4 Donald and Shelly Sterling met with Ballmer and two attorneys Monday afternoon in a 90-minute discussion that ended with no resolution.
While she was negotiating, Donald Sterling revoked the trust, a move designed to rescind his signed agreement for the sale of the Clippers, which he bought for just $12 million.
He announced from the witness stand earlier in the trial that he would never sell the team and would be suing the NBA for the rest of his life.